Danielle Williams: A Family By Any Other Name...Edit
I was born in Dallas, Texas to parents with very different backgrounds. They divorced early on and both went on to remarry but all together we form one, very large and complex family. My family has exposed me to many opposing ideas and diverse experiences. We might not be easily explained but I would not have us any other way.
|Published April 4 and April 27|
My family is a large and diverse group of people. Some ancestors are difficult or impossible to track down and some left their story scribed on our hearts, forever to be passed down through generations. I do not share a name with either side of my family; in fact my immediate family requires a lot of explaining. Our complicated structure certainly keeps things interesting and growing up it taught me to accept all kinds of different people as family. The modern American family is not what it used to be, so labeling its members and drawing concise family trees is not easy. However, for the sake of simplicity, this wiki will be organized to highlight only the history of my mother and my father's family lineage before we explore the modern style of family I grew up with.
The Cooper FamilyEdit
My mother’s patriarchal side of the family, the Coopers, originally immigrated to the US from Wales in the early 1910s. Only a couple decades later, my great grandfather Arthur was faced the Great Depression in the U.S. and spent a short time as a WPA (work progress administration) laborer. In 1933 he began as part of the labor force working on the Hoover Dam. He joined the army some years later when his twin sons’ were small children. Admirably, my great grandmother Marion cared for twin boys, one of whom was my grandfather, Edward Lloyd Cooper, alone during a brief deployment.
My grandfather, Edward Lloyd Cooper, and his identical twin brother both joined the air force as young men and my grandfather eventually ascended to the rank of diamonded master sergeant. In the early 1960’s my grandfather married my grandmother, Syble Holt. The two spend most of their married life in Europe, where my grandfather was stationed. My grandparents went on to have 4 children, the second eldest of which was my mother, Kathy. My grandfather passed away when I was 10, but my grandmother Syble, who served as the source of this family story, is alive and well today in Norman Oklahoma.
Detail of the Cooper’s lineage is difficult to track down because the family is spread across the country, and many of the members keeping us in contact with one another are no longer with us. We do know that some of the Coopers live in Phoenix Arizona, where my grandfather’s twin brother eventually settled with his wife, Irena. My mother and her 3 siblings remain very close. We are all with in a 2 hours of one another and we visit often. My mother’s family is the loud, partying type, so I’m certainly greatfull they are so close.
The Davidson FamilyEdit
My father’s matriarchal side of the family has been in Oklahoma since before the land rush of 1889. The land the Davidsons claimed no longer belongs to the family, but my father was raised in a home on the land they originally claimed. Interestingly, my great great grandmother Glenn was born into extreme poverty in Arkansas and became an indentured servant as a young girl. She was a house laborer during the day and she was restrained in a shed by night. Several members of my family confirmed this incredulous fact (many attribute her harsh, abrasive and eccentric personality to her time in servitude). She was freed with the help of a local family who had known her since she was young. She relocated with the family to Indian Territory in Oklahoma and eventually married the family’s oldest son. They had several children, one of which was my great grandmother, Idabel.
My great grandmother, Idabel, became a Davidson after marrying my great grandfather in Indian Territory. As the story goes, the couple met and quickly fell in love. They were married spur of the moment by a traveling preacher and they said their vows on the side of a road in the mud on a drizzly fall day. They went on to have 12 children, the third eldest of which was my grandmother, Loraine. Loraine Davidson was born with what is now understood to be Duchenne muscular dystrophy (a disease that, for women, sets in in the late 20’s and progressively worsens). She died at age 25 after a difficult childbirth. Her husband, Orville Williams died in a car accident only a few months later. Loraine’s 11 surviving brothers and sisters raised their two sons, my father John and my uncle Ray.
My loved Ones! Edit
This category details those who I consider family but do not fall under the above categories. Today's modern family is not simple enough to describe with a family tree, so I like to think of us more as a family ecosystem. Some of us fit on the tree, some of us do not but all of us work together to survive and thrive!
The Immediate Family
I was raised in more than one household but I lived primarily with my mother, my stepfather and my brother. My stepfather was a Lakota Indian who cared very much for his heritage. I remember receiving lots of puzzled looks in public when I was little, because my mother is dark completed and my stepfather was very dark completed with hair to his waist while I was blonde haired, blue eyed and very fair. As a kid I visited Native American churches, powwows and cultural events and that exposure taught me a lot about how the general population can have huge misconceptions about lesser-known cultures. It is difficult to explain to people the connection I feel to Native American culture, since I am clearly not Native American myself. My stepfather has since passed away and upon his death he was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Black Hills of North Dakota, the cultural center of his ancestors.
Growing up I spent a great deal of time at my father’s home in Comanche Oklahoma. Shortly after my parents split up, my father remarried a woman with a large family of her own so suddenly I had 4 stepsiblings. My father and my stepmother split up a few years later but I never lost the connection I made with my stepsiblings. I do not believe that we have to split up just because a marriage did not work out between our parents. Now, some of them are having children of their own and I treat those children as my own nieces and nephews and they have grown to call my dad “Grandpa” despite the fact that he has no blood relation to them at all. Clearly, this type of relation is not simple to display on a family tree, but we remain very close to this day. My father has remarried again and from that marriage I have gained another stepbrother. Now, not only do I have stepsiblings from two sides of my family, but I have stepsiblings from more than one union on my dads side.
As guaranteed, my family is not easy to explain, but the great thing about our dynamic is the fact that we are big and complicated and we have been through our fair share of hard times, but we can depend on one another. We are connected by more than just DNA and a web of people connect like that, despite a lack of shared genes, is beautiful to me. The family tree below reflects the web created by my imediate family, that is, those I see on a regular basis or grew up living with in one household or another. It is unconventional and in no way reflects accurate blood relation, but it would not be a represntation of my loved ones, otherwise.
Starting this assignment was difficult. I believe that due to my upbringing, my definition of family is different from most people. I value the culture my family raised me in but that culture is difficult to explain. I learned how to view spirituality via the frame of Lakota philosophy and I am used to huge family groups because my family is technically made up of several families, each with different racial and cultural components of their own. I worried about how I would detail all the odd connections I have with those I consider family and it seemed overwhelmingly complicated.
After some thought, however, I realized that family is a much simpler notion than it seems. I think of family as those who laugh with me in the good times, those who cry with me in the bad times, those who have been a part of my past and those who can I count on to be part of my future.