A tree without roots is just a piece of wood

Published 2:26 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A tree without roots is just a piece of wood.”  This great quote is attributed to Marco Pierre White, widely considered the first celebrity chef.   If you follow cooking shows, you may have seen him as the Head Chef on Hell’s Kitchen or as one of the judges on The Chopping Block.   

There is a certain bit of irony in quoting a chef at Thanksgiving when Americans eat more food than any other day.   I rather doubt traditional Thanksgiving fare is White’s specialty, must less when prepared Southern style.  In any case, I love his quote about trees without roots.

I have spent years researching the roots of my family.   Hardly a week goes by that I don’t spend a little bit of time looking for clues about even the most distant branches of my family tree.   

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Just today, I discovered how my great-great-great grandfather died during the Civil War.  He contracted measles and was sent home to die.  James Nicholson was only 40 years old and left his widow with eight children.  The oldest was a twelve year old daughter, the youngest less than a year old.

The knowledge about the many branches of my family tree does not really tell me much about who I am today.   But it does give me a picture of where I came from.  I can walk along the red dirt roads near Richland, Georgia where Nicholson was buried and imagine him coming home from the war.

As I get older, I realize that I am just a small branch in that tree.   Perhaps I work on my family history in the hopes that some descendant of mine will one day stroll along the roads I once walked and imagine what my life was like.

Here is what I would hope my offspring might find out if they are snooping around 150 years from now.  I had a great childhood in a small town where the backdoor was always open.  All the kids worked, and so did their parents.   The work was hard but the lessons stuck.   

Along the way, I got married to my 10th cousin, no less.   We did not even know our very distant connection until we were married for 25 years.  Mary Lou and I did not have eight children like Grandpa Nicholson, but we did have two great daughters, who married great husbands, and gave us three exceptional grandchildren.   

I remained close with my brother and sister and watched them raise their families.  We celebrated most holidays together, with my extended family sharing many of the great feasts of Thanksgivings past.   

I was influenced greatly by my own grandparents and my parents, who all loved me unconditionally, even when I didn’t deserve it.

I worked hard, harder than most might have realized.   I was lucky to have two careers that I truly enjoyed; first in peanuts and then in restaurants.  Along the way I was fortunate to have had literally thousands of people work for me.  My greatest skill was surrounding myself with great people and letting them do their job.

I enjoyed politics and worked hard to build a consensus among the people I served.   I felt like I left my little corner of the world better off than when I came, and if I didn’t, at least I tried. 

I moved to a place where I had no family, no existing roots, and my wife and I planted that seedling ourselves.   Our life in Southwest Georgia was filled with friends, church family, supporters, and co-workers.   

Our family tree was truly nurtured in our adopted home.

We will sit down at our table this Thanksgiving of 2016 surrounded by family and blessed beyond measure.   And yes, I am thankful for the roots put down 150 years ago, and the roots we are putting down now.  A tree without roots is just a piece a wood.  I am thankful our tree is alive and well.    

Happy Thanksgiving to all.