Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Danish writer and editor Simon Fruelund. We have both recently been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, and we did a mini book tour together to help support the release of our work. Over the course of our travels, we spent much time together, discussing writing, family, and teaching. Simon met my husband Dreux briefly twice, and on the way to the airport, Simon expressed how drawn he was to Dreux, remarking that he possesses a quality of being that is both alluring and pensive. “I believe that certain people carry ancestral pain,” Simon offered, and it struck me how very true this is of Dreux. There’s a bit of hesitancy about my husband, a sense of brooding usually offset by his lively sense of humor. Perhaps the humor masks the deep ways his spirit is still figuring something out.
A few days later, I was in Maryland with Dreux’s parents for another book gig, and while we looked at and discussed the family Bible, I told them of Simon’s comment. My father-in-law, a scientist through and through, simply nodded his head. “That makes sense.” Dreux’s mixed heritage—Swedish, Saponi, Cape Verdean, African—tells a complex story of intense loss and violation, as well as joyful celebration of family and connections. It surprised me that Simon’s comment resonated so much with Dreux’s parents, that they immediately understood the power of this possibility for their son. Given Simon’s comment and the conversation with Dreux’s parents, this article caught my attention: ‘Memories’ pass between generations. In this study, researchers explored the ways genetic memory may pass from the sperm and egg to the fetus. The article got me thinking about how we might all carry ancestral pain and/or genetic memory.
Right now, Melinda is at Auschwitz, bearing witness to the losses and pain perpetuated there, as well as connecting with her Jewish roots in Eastern Europe. Today, she posted on Facebook about the 1.5 million Jewish children killed in the Holocaust. In the post, she included drawings made by children in the camp, including simple, powerful expressions of love. Those hearts, confined in imprisoned bodies, must, on some level, still be a part of our world, and for some of us, those hearts reside in the blood, the memories housed in our cells.
The link across time is not merely imagined—it is a compelling aspect of our personalities, and a powerful way to encounter this link is through the creative process. Familial messages run deep, and artists must contextualize their work within a potent backdrop of both spoken and silent beliefs, many of which have been passed down through the generations. Exploring our habits, self-talk, and generational patterns, while giving breath to the imagination, are essential to the creative process—to connect to legacy and meaning, we must listen to our deepest selves and see what messages, directives, and impulses may be waiting there, ready to guide us to our most meaningful work.