to be a hickman.

Yes, this is 5'4" me carrying my 6' something younger brother.
Mother, father, sister, brother. Yes, this is 5’4″ me carrying my 6′ something younger brother.

Do you know the history of Hickman?

It’s my maiden name, and sometimes people who’ve only ever known me as Faletra chuckle when I tell them.

“Yes,” I say when they ask, “Are you a hick, man?”

I laugh, because yes is an honest answer; we kind of are sometimes.

My name is Faletra now, and I’ve married into a great family who has loved me as their own for the past 8 years. Blessed, I would call myself, to have two great families.

But biology reminds me: my name is Faletra, but my blood is Hickman, down to each cell, red and white. I’ve often wondered where the name came from, from where previous Hickmans hailed, what they did, how they lived. Did they live with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, like my father? And what of diabetes, like my grandfather? Or cancer, like my grandmother who died before I knew her? Did they know intimately the tumultuous up and down of anxiety and depression, of bipolar disorder, or panic attacks? Did ancestral Hickmans find life to be beautiful and exhausting at the same time, too, as we do? Were they mad at God? Did they trust him anyway?

My father, grandfather, and younger brother. “This could be a photo of four generations if you’d give me a son already!” says my father.

To be honest, the specifics do not matter. Because whatever our history was or is, it has made the Hickmans full of a kind of soft, unassuming strength that some people just plain miss. We are a redemptive, glimmering, loving people. Yes, we have our shortcomings—and lots of them, but what lies beneath our scars and divots and short tempers? What are the stories behind our fears and anxieties? The paths Hickmans have walked have been full of thorns and bristles, burning coals and frigid terrain.

The Hickmans are tender (yes, even the men, in their own rugged way), but they fight and thrash against the tumult and the crashing waves that try to knock them down. If anyone has raged against the dying of the light, it is my mother and father. If anyone has been knocked down by wave after wave and still managed to stand up against them, strong and sometimes all alone, it is my brother. They are generous and compassionate. They love when it is hard. They give seventy times seven chances. They fight their demons instead of pretending they have none. They do not sweep their troubles under a Jesus-rug, as I like to call it, or pretend that everything’s just a-okay.

The sad thing is, through the years, some people have decided that kind of authenticity and truth is too much.

People have left them behind. Walked away in their time of need. Swept them to the side, out of their path and line of sight, like they are salted snow, a melting and dissolving eye-sore in the midst of an otherwise seemingly sparkling crisp winter.

It’s a pity, I tell you, because underneath everyone else’s sparkling white snow is the same load of shit, and at least my parents have the balls to call it shit when it is actual shit, and then they get their hands dirty cleaning it up.)

But I (profanely) digress.

Same eyes, same soul.
Same Hickman eyes, same Hickman soul.

This is the narrative of Hickman: we greet pain and loss, anxiety and grief, loneliness and confusion, and we tell it to kindly fuck off because there is still life and marrow in our blood cells and bones.

On my toughest days–the ones full of pain, of anxiety, of tears, and “this life is too much,” and doubt and fear, and “Oh, my God, why? I cannot stand!”–I remind myself that I, too, have Hickman blood, and if I have even just one thousandth of the same strength and tenderness it carries with it, then, by God, I am going to be okay.

I love you, Daddy, Mommy, and Bubby, and I am so proud you’re my family.


7 thoughts on “to be a hickman.

  1. I know another Hickman (though she’s not legally a Hickman anymore). I found out my maiden name Caplin came from Czaplinski, and was changed at Ellis Island (can you imagine having to spell that out constantly??). I married into a family of every Anglo-Saxon nationality you can imagine. Quite a contrast from my Eastern European roots 🙂

    1. I’ve seen a few Hickmans here and there! Never met any unfortunately. Czaplinski would be a tough one to spell over and over! Haha. I find the ideas of names, origins, and family legacies to be so interesting. I’d love to meet other Hickmans and get conclusive lineages and origins because I’d love to know more about my family’s roots. Unfortunately we do not know much more than “European.”

  2. I like you Hickmans. It’s an important thing, to be able to speak your truth, even if it’s ugly. More of us should learn to do that, so that we can support each other in our struggles. What else are we here for?

  3. Your great grandparents were very kind, loved God with all of their hearts and we’re just a little ornery. They always treated me with respect and loved me like their own. I believe that they are a huge part of my faith. They were very real. They would be so very proud of you Kelsey!

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