Monday, April 04, 2005


Loving history, as I do, it's pretty natural that I take a great deal of interest in my ancestors. I grew up with history in our home as my folks were ingrained pack-rats, keeping just about everything they'd ever gotten during their lives and marriage, throwing away only food scraps (those that weren't put into the fridge for a later Slumgullian Stew) and things so absolutely worn out that they couldn't be patched together for something in my Dad's garage (even then there were things in the garage that an archeologist wouldn't have been able to recognize).

I ran across a huge magnifying glass in a hallway closet once and my mother informed me that it was the headlight lens from my grandfather's Model T. I used it to incinerate ants in the front yard, probably putting burn spots on the back of my eyeballs in the process. I also found an old camera, something called a Picture-Postcard Kodak, that had also been my grandfather's, which lead to a long-term research project about my family and how they'd gotten to Florida.

It is something like reading a novel to see where your family has been and a bit discouraging to know that you'll never read the chapters past your own. I hope that I can put what has happened before me all together in some readable form for my kids to pass along to later generations, assuming there will be some. Neither of my daughters have demonstrated a lot of motherly instincts and loudly proclaim when the matter is raised that they aren't too keen on having families of their own. Of course, this depresses me greatly, since either way it goes, my side of the family will not bear the name I and that others on my father's side have had since the early 19th Century. My brother did not have kids of his own (choosing the saintly path of raising three stepchildren and two adopted boys) so he'll never have any lineal blood descendants , leaving it up to me to pass down the name. I had daughters. Not that I mind daughters, as I love mine dearly despite the ups and downs of our relationships, but it does make me wonder what I'd have done with one or more sons ("No son, I don't want to play catch today; wouldn't you rather go to the Library and read old Life magazines from the '40s?").

One of my ancestors was on the Mayflower, another was lost at sea in New England. My great-great grandfather was a farmer/poet who moved his family to northeast Iowa in the middle of nowhere and my great-grandfather was a preacher who wrote a number of books and sent the second of his three sons to Florida to start an Temperance (alcohol-free) farming town with the dream of a university in the future. Of course, that dream failed miserably, but my grandfather hung around Florida and my grandmother had my father during that "extended vacation" to Chicago during WWI. My father served his country as a B-24 mechanic during the war in North Africa and Italy and became an auto mechanic. None of them were well-to-do (well, maybe my preacher great-grandfather, but he went bankrupt shortly before his death and left nothing for his sons) but I like to think they were all honorable men who did what they could to make their families comfortable and good citizens.

Hope I'm doing the same for my kids. At least they won't be able to say that they never knew where they came from.

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