Or perhaps this should be titled “Time Sink.” I didn’t need another hobby, another distraction, regardless how noble. When a friend showed me ancestry.com and plugged in a few names to get my tree started, I knew this could become a serious condition. Suddenly, faded photos that decorate my bathroom walls were appearing. How did they get there? An article my mother had written about my great-grandfather’s whaling adventure popped up. I was seeing ghosts in a blank landscape.
I signed up for the two-week trial and have limited myself to one hour in the morning to poke and snoop and add to the growing tree. I’m only following my mother’s side, to start. My dad’s tree has been well researched from many angles; I can fill in the details there, handily. But my mom’s side seemed so fragile and shallow. She was the only child of two only children.
Why do humans have a fascination with generations long gone? Mine was brought to light by the invoice for “perpetual care” of the family gravesite. I am impressed with the ability of ancestry.com to track down and help you plug in the unknown facets of your forefathers (and foremothers ?) lives and deaths. My excuse for the time sink was to build something I could print out for Hanni and Lex in the event they ever have any interest.
So while soaking in the tub the other night, I looked up from my book and really studied the photo in the peeling frame.
Even if you didn’t know these kids, they represent the quintessential 1960’s youth. The boy is obviously the oldest. We were posed by my Uncle John, the first person I ever knew to own a good camera and a dark room. Note the boy’s mode of dress, the placement of his hands. The girl to his right is me. I adored him. He was my mirror to the world of who I was. He was the closest person in my universe to my age and yet he was so wise. I imitated everything he did; how he dressed (button up that top button), how he posed for the photo (a cool display of casual fingers in on the knees), and wore pants just like he did.
The girl to my right is my sister. Zanne was the baby. I had no experience with someone younger than myself; I had been a baby, but that didn’t count. Duncan had suffered through, continued to suffer through, my infancy and adoration of him. He wanted nothing more, as the first-born, than to go back to being the center of the universe. Barring that, he would have preferred to be alone as opposed to being saddled with me.
I don’t know how it was for Zanne to have two ahead of you, paving the way or at the least hacking a path through the forest, of how to train our parents to be parents. From what we have discussed to date, it was an intricate twist on how I saw life growing up. A different reality as is to be expected with birth order.
The child to the right of Zanne is our cousin. Her dad was the photographer. On the reverse side of the print, in pencil written in Uncle John’s neat script are the notations: Newbury 1962
Duncan Martha Ann Susan Mary Elizabeth
If Mary Elizabeth knocked on my door today, I would hope that some family resemblance would alert me to who she is. I have not seen her in over 50 years. I have no idea who she is, who she became, or what her life is like. On the other hand, I trust in life’s quirky ways to bring us together if the occasion arrises and there is a lesson to be learned.
So, as to Ancestry.com? I could sink a lot of my waking hours and not regret the time spent. On the other hand, I can wait for life to hand me the connections I need, when I need them.