I wrote this in January, after my Mom visited and thoughts were swirling around in my head.
It’s all still settling in and I expect it will take some time to absorb it. There has been a kind of drought for a significant time, almost like living in a vacuum of knowledge. And then the sky opens up and it pours hard for a long time, each piece of information a raindrop, but all together making a beautiful symphonic crescendo on the roof – powerfully comforting. At the time, the wind blew the information sideways in confusion, but then it calmed and the flow of information was like a steady rhythmic shower of refreshingly cool water.
My Mom drove six hours to visit and brought with her boxes of information on family history. Not a shoebox. Not a moving box. About ten good size boxes packed tight with named envelopes. Each envelope represents a life; but the names, pictures, documents and stories inside of them form an invisible chain connecting them, a historic link to every other envelope resulting in one very long and very interesting story of Me.
Mom started the journey of research many years prior to that day when a dear aunt of hers shared some information with her. It was preceded by her own sense of belonging in the family so a healthy interest developed. She started attaching dates to names and names to dates and both names and dates to faces. Each adventure into one of the envelopes led to a connection to other names and there were enough stories to keep it intriguing. In time, the names jumped across the ocean expanding the search as the string connected further. The collection of envelopes grew. I’m grateful the envelopes didn’t fall prey to fire or flood in all the years they were lovingly stored. I’m grateful the storyteller has aged gracefully with mind intact to share it all with me.
For nine days, we dissected the envelopes and hovered over this magical machine called a computer. With a healthy dose of patience for my obsession to detail, my Mom took each directive and question in stride. Most of what we both deem important and historical now rests in a piece of metal the size of a thumb – what would the ancestors think of THAT?!
It’s not over. There is updating to do, dates to add, forms to fill out and new lives to impact. But there’s a peace knowing that the information can be shared with some of the people whose names are in those envelopes and we hope to shower them with all the information soon. We hope it will feel like a good soaking rain that refreshes their bodies and the soil under their feet, as it does for my mom and me.
What I come away with is a collection of stories that connect our family in time. I saw in pictures and heard in words the impact that a community of family has. It’s clearer to me why my Mom has the confidence she deserves to have, not only because of who she is but also because of who she comes from — parents who stayed together in good times and bad; sisters and brothers who share memories of growing up years; aunts and uncles and cousins who made time to picnic together and telephone and write letters to each other. They love each other beyond personality differences and deficits, beyond silly mistakes and wrong word choices. Family trees have crooked branches, grow nuts and attract monkeys too, but there’s enough history and love in their roots to support them and bind them together through the years – a beautiful blend of fun and forgiveness.
My kids grew up miles and sometimes oceans away from relatives. We regularly spent vacations and time in-between moves with family, forming whatever relationships we could and working hard to create their own pools of belonging. They eagerly anticipated time with grandparents, outings with cousins and family reunions. It is their foundation – the trunk of their tree so to speak. They will live on and branch out with lives and families of their own, adding leaves to the tree of our family. I can’t wait to share with them what their Grandma has recorded for them and what she and I have now made easily accessible. It’s their heritage, their legacy, their firm foundation and their springboard to the future. It’s FAMILY.