A Cowlick, a Spinning Wheel, And a Hand to the Chin

My grandson never met my grandpa. So Andrew doesn’t know how my Grandpa Miller would push his chair back from the table at the end of a big family meal, how he would sit there, absorbed by our table talk—his arms crossed and one hand to his chin. When Grandpa sat like that, I could see that we mattered.

And this is how Andrew often sits at our table, looking around at us, his cousins and aunt and uncle and parents and grandparents, as if we matter. The first time I saw him do this, I was instantly back at the Mapleshade farmhouse. Though Andrew was young, maybe only six, he sat there, arms crossed and one hand to his chin, just watching, finding meaning in our words and on our faces. 

And Andrew is not alone. I also see earlier generations in other grandchildren—a penchant for policy, a need to move often and fast, a knack for turning a dime into a dollar, generous giving, precision of language, a smile, a nose, and a cowlick.

Through my house are scattered other treasures from the past: a wooden, leather-hinged box my great-grandma used to organize wool dyes, a primer that taught my two-greats-back uncle how to read, an aunt’s Bible, and a Civil-War era spinning wheel crafted by my grandpa three greats back.

I give this wheel a spin when I dust it, thinking of the generations of human touch. It’s hand-smoothed wood and the worn leather on the dye box and the crinkled pages in the primer—all these come from the material landscape of those in the chain before me.

But much as I enjoy the patina of these relics, I value even more that Andrew shows the spiritual culture of my Grandpa Miller, that like his great-great grandpa he finds worth in people around a table.

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