Written by Olivia VandeLoo
In this story, a young girl named Lily has a talk with her Grandmother and she realizes that she does not know where she and her family are from. Her Grandmother shares her stories of her people and makes Lily promise that she will keep their culture alive. Many years later, Lily tells her people’s story to her own child under the same tree that she and her Grandmother would walk to each day. The reader learns that culture is an important part of our lives and we need to appreciate how far we have come.
Keywords: heartfelt, uplifting, generational, emotional
Lily was a young girl with brown eyes and black curly hair. She had a very curious spirit and loved learning about her culture and where her family came from. She lived with her mother, her father, her grandmother, and her two sisters. They lived in a small house with about an acre of land. There are lots of big, beautiful trees, grasses, and best of all flowers.
Lily loved to walk around her yard and enjoy nature. Most days her grandmother would join her on her walks. They would talk about anything and everything. Grandmother was very good at naming all the flowers; Lily was very good at asking questions.
One day in early August, Lily and her Grandmother were sitting on the back porch enjoying a cup of tea. Grandmother’s was real, Lily’s was pretend. Lily loved to do everything that Grandmother did. If she could not do what Grandmother was doing, she would simply sit and watch her with awe. Besides going on walks Lily loved to help Grandmother in the garden. They would plant flowers, fruits, vegetables, and herbs. They could spend all day together! Grandmother would braid Lily’s hair, tell her stories about her people, and cook their favorite meals together.
While they were drinking their tea, Lily turned to Grandmother and took her time to admire her gorgeous, dark eyes and her long braid that was so neat behind her back. She looked at every wrinkle and every freckle that Grandmother had. Grandmother noticed Lily admiring her beauty, she smiled and said, “What are you looking at my child?” Lily didn’t know how to answer that question. She was looking at her Grandmother on the outside but what she really wanted to know is who her Grandmother was on the inside. Lily hesitated, took a deep breath and said, “Where are you from, Grandmother? I know that you used to live with your family but where were they from?”
Grandmother smiled and looked up at the sky. She was thinking of her family that she would get to see again one day. Each time she saw a bird she thought of them. How they would always stick together and travel across the country together. “Let’s go for a walk young one, we have a lot to discuss,” Grandmother said, “I am going to tell you the story of our people.”
Lily took Grandmother’s hand, and they began to walk around the yard. They walked for a few minutes just enjoying nature. Lily couldn’t help but notice the birds chirping, the bright flowers that she planted weeks earlier with Grandmother, and the swaying of the branches on the old oak tree. After walking for a while Grandmother motioned for Lily to take a seat under the old oak tree. Grandmother then sat down next to her, still silent and enjoying the sounds of the earth.
“Do you hear that child?” asked Grandmother, “The birds, those are our people”
“What do you mean?” asked Lily, “We are not birds! We are humans!”
“The birds remind me of my family when I was your age. I also lived with my mother, father, and Grandmother. We would travel together, learn together, and never leave each other behind. We are descendants of the Mohawk people.”
“The who?” asked Lily confused.
“The Mohawks are a group of people who preach peace, sing songs about our Earth, and enjoy the land. We love each other and we love the Earth. You are a descendant of the Mohawk people, too!”
“How come I have never heard of the Mohawk before?” Lily stated.
“People try to make you forget where you come from. If you ask me that is the worst thing that you can do. Our history is what makes us special and different from those around us. Not everyone is lucky enough to say that they are descendants of the Mohawk people. Promise me that when you grow older you will keep our culture alive. Tell your children about who we are and where we come from.”
“I promise Grandmother. I will never forget where we come from. Our people are special, and I will never let anyone forget that. I am proud to be of Mohawk culture, it is what makes us who we are, and I would not change that for anything,” said Lily with as much sincerity as she could muster.
Lily could see the light in her Grandmothers eyes. This statement made Grandmother very happy, and she reached over to hold Lily’s hand. They sat under that tree for hours listening to the Earth buzz around them. These were the times that Lily would never forget.
Many years later, Lily took a visit to the old oak tree, this time she was not with Grandmother but instead she was with her own child, Thomas. Lily took Thomas’s hand and walked out to that same old oak tree that she and Grandmother used to go to. She was silent and listening to the sounds of nature that she and Grandmother did years ago. She looked up and saw a bird sitting on a branch of the oak tree. This made her think of her Grandmother and all of the stories and laughter that they shared. She turned to Thomas and noticed that he was looking at the bird as well. She told him how it made her think of her Grandmother and of their native land. About how Earth and nature made her remember that promise she made to her Grandmother under that same tree so long ago.
Thomas, soaking in all of nature, looked up at Lily and said, “Momma where am I from?”
Lily smiled, the same way that her Grandmother did. She took a deep breath and thought about the wise words that her Grandmother told her years ago. She took Thomas’ hand and told him to sit down.
“Let me tell you a story” she said, “a story that you need to promise me that you will never forget.”
Thomas crossed his heart and promised that he would never forget. From this day on, generations of Mohawk people take their children to this same tree and tell them their life story. A story that changed not only their lives but also…. the world.
So next time you see a bird in the sky or hear a babbling brook, take time to think about where you came from and what makes you who you are. Have a conversation with your family and learn about where you are from and what differences your people have made. I promise, you will never forget it.