My maternal grandfather, Jose Romero was born in 1899 and his wife, my grandmother, Juana (Romo) was born in 1905. Both were from Northern New Mexico. My paternal grandmother, Trinidad Olemeda, was born in 1888, also in Northern New Mexico. Her husband, Domingo Olemeda, my grandfather was born in 1893 in Leon Guanajuato, Mexico. Their timelines, are my family’s timelines as we embrace a new decade with new challenges of racial injustice, a burgeoning pandemic, and a difficult economy.
By the time my grandmother Juana was thirteen, she lost her mother and two siblings to the Spanish flu in 1918. She became a pseudo-mother to her remaining siblings. As my other grandparents approached their teens and early twenties our country was embroiled in World War I in Europe. They were in their twenties and thirties as the country faced the Great Depression. As the depression eased, our country became involved in yet another war, World War II in 1941. Through the early years of the twentieth century, my grandparents grew up and grew their families. My parents, my aunts, and uncles were born all while the world was engulfed in constant change and turmoil.
As the decades turned into the mid-century, my ancestors became grandparents. My dad’s father, Domingo, lost a battle with cancer and was only able to know one of his son’s children, my sister Theresa. My dad’s mother, Trinidad, was able to be a grandparent longer than her husband, but not much longer, as she died six years after he did. Only two of my sisters were able to meet our father’s mother. My mother’s parents lived long enough to be grandparents and even great-grandparents.
My parents married in 1954. My dad, David Olemeda, served our country in the Navy during the Korean war. He and my mother also grew their family in turbulent times. My sisters, Theresa and Roxanne were born in the late 1950’s. However, it was myself and the rest of my siblings that were born in the 1960’s. In that decade, about every eighteen months, the country lost great leaders, including John F. Kennedy in ’63, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X in ’65 and Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy in ’68. The 1960’s ended with “The Summer of Love” in Woodstock, New York in 1969 but also that was a summer of hate with the Manson Murders that unfolded in California. As the country was at war in Vietnam, we also put a man on the moon. I vaguely remember my mom waking my sleepy three-year-old self up to see Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon.
As the country was dealing with violence in the streets, and a long running war, my husband and I came into the world anyways, despite the turbulent times of the decade we were born into. How much more different are the timelines of the past to what is unfolding today? I had someone once tell me when I was pregnant with my daughter sixteen years ago, “I would not have child now days. How can you bring a child into the world with global warming, wars, and hate?” I told that co-worker the same thing I would tell anyone who wants to bring child into the world today, “Did not my parents, your parents, your grandparents, my grandparents, deal with troubling times? They dealt with the hand they were dealt, just like myself and my spouse will deal with our troubling times.”
I have been telling my children they will not forget these times. They are sixteen and thirteen. They are going to remember until the end of their days, this pandemic, the racial injustice, and the political climate of these times. But I delight when I hear them laughing in the living room watching the Cartoon Network. I rejoice that we love playing Uno Flip. We try to make as many of our outings as normal as possible, even as we wear masks, and super sanitize our hands when we return from the outside world. As we grumble how hard these times are that we are living through, we need to remember what our parents and grandparents endured. Depending on the decade your parents and grandparents and even yourself were born into, determines how your view of the world is shaped and molded.
Just like iron is forged in fire and shaped into steel to make buildings, knives, and cars, we are being forged and shaped daily into our better selves. Decades from now, we will be written about in the annals of history. Our challenge now is to make sure our stories we leave behind will make our children and grandchildren proud.