“Roots are, I’m learning, as important as wings.”
― Michele Huey
Today, I’m beginning my broad family history research. It’s going to take awhile and will be tricky.
As I sit down to put my notes together, I feel like a little kid sitting in front of a 1000 piece puzzle box knowing at least half of the important pieces are missing.
I guess that’s what makes a story a story–making the best of the details available–pulling what you have together and sharing your memories as a way to pass on lessons learned along the way.
My Grandpa Burton is pictured in my story today along with the only photo i have of one of our visits to Grandpa Burton’s. Unfortunately, I have very few memories of him or dad’s family. When we were young, we rarely visited and no one visited us.
The trips to Grandpa Burton’s house seemed to be last minute, discussed in whispers, and lasted only a few hours. The trip to the little town of Paton was short by today’s standards but lasted forever. The conversations were hushed, often held a sharp edge, but were mostly nonexistent. The silence seemed to wind the three of us up, opening space for our continued questions of how many more miles is it or how many more minutes until we are there.
As the miles trudged by, the level of tension increased. Finally, we pulled up in front of the house. With all the pent up energy we’d been holding in, we raced to the door to be greeted and fussed over by our aunt. I remember being uncomfortable with all the attention she gave us because I really did not know her. She was so different from my mom’s sister, Charlotte. As I looked around the entry way I noticed my grandpa and uncle remained seated in their chairs. Mom greeted everyone warmly but seemed to hover close to us. My dad walked in slowly nodding his head as a greeting. As I think back I hear him clear his throat while his hands are in his pockets, rattling his keys and change. It was a sound I’d come to know very well.
My sisters and I were young but each picked up on the strain in our own way. The body language displayed at this gathering began my lessons in picking up subtle and not so subtle clues–it became the foundation for my childhood of hyperawareness.
I became the watcher and the worrier–the child began her withdrawl in order to stay safe from the unknown.
“In our family histories, the frontier between fact and fiction is vague, especially in the record of events that took place before we were born, or when we were too young to record them accurately; there are few maps to these remote regions, and only the occasional sign to guide the explorer.”
― Adam Sisman