It is amazing what an impromptu four days away from home, away from all pressures of daily living, the television and the computer and internet can do. I enjoyed long conversations and being fascinated by the scenery of the Florida panhandle–a bit of research for my novel-in-progress: lakes, piney woods, great swaths of moss hanging in the great trees. I returned home deliciously relaxed, energized, and filled with ideas. I didn’t realize it at the time, but all the sights I had seen had filled my artist well.
I really should get away more often.
While I eagerly plunged back into writing on my novel and gardening (I was inspired by the blooming daylilies at the Florida rest stops!), I have not jumped back into much else on the computer, and have watched little television beyond TCM.
Another thing my trip away sparked was the curiosity about my family. While we drove, my eighty-four year old mother told stories of long ago. I have again dug out the boxes and albums of old photos. I’m talking a few tin-types here.
You should see me with these old photographs. It is no wonder I write novels. I look into the faces of these long dead people and try to find their lives. Because I am near-sighted, I have magnified close-up vision. I take off my glasses and bend close over the photographs, studying faces, hair-styles, clothing, tiny bits of every detail. I want to know what the photographs cannot tell me, which is their struggles and scandals and triumphs.
This has brought me back to another interest: genealogy. I’m so very grateful to my friend who introduced me to the Family Search site. It is a wealth of birth, death, marriage, and census records. They also have tutorials and program information, and it is all free!
The names on all of these records are fascinating to my writer-self. My paternal grandmother’s father’s given name was Benoni. Or maybe Benonia. It is spelled both ways on different records; obviously records are not necessarily accurate. My mother says, “Oh, there were a lot of those Benonis down that way.”
All the records are open and one can look up anyone. There is my namesake, my grandfather by marriage. I look forward to finding his birth and his parents marriage, and dare I hope their divorce, surely a desperate thing back at the turn of the century. I am the depository of many, many historical photographs from that side. I search their faces, and I even have an adoring letter from my grandfather’s father to his wife, where he says how much he misses her and ‘the baby’. Why did my grandfather’s mother and father split? The factual record will not tell me, and I shall never know. I am grateful to possess a writer mind to make up their stories. (My mother offers the suggestion that her family pushed him out.)
If you use a Mac computer and are into genealogy, I’d be interested in knowing what program you use. I’m still dithering about which to get.
Until next time,