In May 1998, country music star Clay Walker released his 16th single entitled “Ordinary People, ” but it was the worst performing song he ever had. Despite failing to resonate with a wide audience, the song and its core values have sustained and inspired me through my life and as I work on capturing and preserving my family history.
Read the second verse and this chorus and see if you can understand why:
Then I heard some famous people had an anniversary
Five long years together, it was Hollywood history
Now my grandma and grandpa
But they took the love of fifty-seven years right to the grave
‘Cause ordinary people have extraordinary love
A million little miracles far beneath the stars above
The greatest gift that I could ever wish for you and me
Is a life as ordinary as can be.
– “Ordinary People” Written by Ed Hill and Craig Wiseman, and recorded by Clay Walker on the 1998 Clay Walker Greatest Hits album.
I especially like the line “the greatest gift that I could ever wish for you and me is a life as ordinary as can be.” Why? Because my ancestors were ordinary people. Because my husband and I are ordinary people.
And truth be told, it is a great gift to be a way from the pressures that come from being in the lime light. Yet, we really DO deserve to make a printed page or a captured digital footprint.
For the most part, my parents and grandparents were ordinary people. My father was an accountant who worked for the IRS, a private firm servicing the Houston oil industry, and then for a couple of used car lots. My mother was an administrative assistance for an oil company (hey, it’s Houston) and then the Texas Medical Center.
My father’s parents loyally worked for the North American Rockwell plant located in Columbus, Ohio. My grandfather’s job is unknown to me at this time but my grandmother was a computer programmer of some sort. She was the petite beauty and brains of the duo, while my grandfather was large in stature and loved to hunt and smoke pipe tobacco.
And by the way, that’s them in the photo with my teenage father in the 1960s.
They were savers, yet had a large estate in Blacklick, Ohio with an apple orchard and a few ponds outside their back porch. They were actively involved in the Masonic Lodge and Eastern Star organizations near their home.
My mother’s parents were opposite in stature but not in extraordinary ordinariness. My grandpa was a slim home delivery truck driver for Borden’s for 22 years. My grandma was more robust in size after having children but diligently worked as a home maker until my grandpa died.
She became a care giver after her third daughter was born to help with the family’s budget. When Grandpa died, she worked for the Xerox company and would send me books including the Weekly Readers series.
Grandpa was active in the Swan Club and Grannie was active supporting her daughter’s activities. They both loved bowling and playing cards. After Grandpa passed away, Grannie adored Tom Selleck and loyally watched Magnum P.I.
The further back you go in my heritage the more ordinary people become. I had railroaders, farmers, blacksmiths, and a barber. The extraordinary jobs for men belonged to a professor at Ohio State University and a pharmacist.
The wives were nearly all home makers raising their children. Only one was a teacher before she became a wife and mother. Another raised her siblings before she married and then raised her own children. She was essentially a mother twice!
Rarely did my family make the newspaper or effect great social change. Books and movies were not written about them, though I’m working to change that. Their lives were occasionally marked in public when they married, died, or were in a small traffic accident. They weren’t the founders of cities, movie stars. or politicians.
They were American citizens who raised their families and hoped for a better life for them.
And just as I reflect back on my own life, I doubt I’ll make any real headlines. I am a stay-at-home mother who also happens educates my kids in the home. When I was younger, I was a local beauty queen and a captain of my flag line. When called upon, I love to teach family history, personal finance, or in Sunday School. In short, I’m pretty ordinary.
But in the eyes of my children and some day my grandchildren, I will be just as extraordinary to them as my ancestors are to me.
I yearn for the ordinary stories. The ones that made them laugh. The ones that made them cry. The reasons they did what the did, and the regrets for some choices they made.
As my parents and grandparents are no longer living, I have to do what I can to share their stories. At the same time, I need to write the ordinary stories of my life. No one living today should have their children search for the story of their life.