The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator


Appreciate what you have while you still have it
Photo by Elyse Braun
A few books from my collection of all things family.

If the headline of this story doesn’t already make it glaringly apparent, I’m feeling pretty nostalgic right now. Without going into details, I was hit with some pretty hard family-related news that’s had me doing quite a bit of reflecting throughout today.

Regardless of where this thought spiral of word vomit takes me, I want to make one overarching point incredibly clear: please, if you take anything away from this story let it be to appreciate everything around you.

After said news was brought to my attention, I started thinking. A lot. I started thinking about the side of the family (my dad’s side) that’s directly involved with this matter. And, naturally, I started reminiscing. The things that came to mind, my friends, are exactly what I’m going to share with you today.

I would consider myself to be a selective history buff. Most of the time if history is something I’m learning in a class I’ll find it to be mildly entertaining. The deciding factor for me is the topic of said history. 

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For example, I’m taking an American Women’s History (HIST 205) right now and I love it. Anything regarding how humans have evolved within the world of social justice, too, always grabs my attention. 

What really takes the cake for me, more than any other topic, is family history. And I’m talking about all kinds. Throughout my thinking process today, I found myself digging through cabinets and reaching up to the top shelves to find something to distract my brain from everything going on.

I rediscovered quite a few gems. Some were cookbooks, either made through the collaboration of members of my town or through members of my dad’s side of the family. Others were typed out tracings of specific sections of my family history. I sat and read through them for multiple hours.

After the discovery of these items, I began flipping through the pages trying to spark up memories. The cookbooks came first. There were a few recipes that caught my eye, as well as a few that came to mind as I fell down the rabbit hole.

For starters, I found a number of notable recipes for side dishes like green bean casserole and German potato salad. It brought back memories of family holiday celebrations where uncles cracked bad jokes and cousins couldn’t help but tease them for it.

One particular recipe, for the Braun family’s staple cookies, floated to mind at the thought of family gatherings. This desert, a plain cookie with a glaze made of milk and powdered sugar and a few too many rainbow nonpareil sprinkles, is nothing special. The cookie is usually dry and the glaze is as plain as can be. But put a plate of them on the table, and they’re gone in minutes.

The cookies usually only make an appearance at our annual Braun family reunion in August. My great aunt has long been tasked with making upwards of twelve dozen of them each year. All with the same cookie cutter, which passed down over the years.  As a baker myself, I was asked if I would take it over. Part of me wished I would have said yes.

After an overwhelming wave of family memories sunk in, I turned my time over to the pile of books, folders and photos about my family’s history. I could tell you all of the cool things I rediscovered like the immigration timeline of my eighth great-grandfather or the fact that the same family was knighted and has a castle (true story, by the way).

I think more than anything, it was looking at all of the pictures of all of the people that came before me that felt really special. These people, who I have never met (and depending on your beliefs maybe never will) unintentionally sacrificed so much for me to be here. They lived, they chose to love one another and they died all with the hope that people of the same blood would live to tell their tales.

And now I sit in between a small stack of recipe books, the top one open to a pie recipe, and a slightly smaller stack of family history open to the record of my dad and his siblings. All I can wonder is why I wasted so much time reading about the past. As obvious as that thought may be to many, I did what I needed to in order to come to that conclusion. 

Don’t get me wrong, I find everything that I just went through to be fascinating. But I recognize that maybe my time would be used much more effectively looking at the faces of my family members rather than photographs of them once they are gone.

Braun can be reached at [email protected] 

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  • S

    Susie BraunMay 9, 2024 at 3:09 pm

    What wonderful memories!

  • D

    Debbie BraunMay 7, 2024 at 6:15 pm

    Love this!