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Mysteries and Family History: She Started It

Sigh. Unpacking sucks. 

I recently moved and as I slowly (seriously snail paced) unpack my totes and suitcases, I realized there were still things I should have given away…things I just don’t need.

Tonight I started opening my totes of books…I will spare you the number of them…but in one of the totes I thought was books, I discovered my family tree research. More than that…it is multiple notebooks compiled by my Nana Jana. 
When I opened the tote…it smelled like her house and tears overflowed my eyes. I may have hugged notebooks. Her notebooks.

She gave them to me about a month before she died. I didn’t want to take them, because I knew why she was giving them to me.  But she insisted. It was much easier to take them than to argue with her. You really couldn’t argue with her. Ever.

I just miss her. So. Much.

She is the reason I am our family historian and researcher. All the information I started with came from her. She started researching in the early 1990’s. Right around the time she lost her Mom. Maybe it was her way of carrying the legacy forward. Maybe it was the way she dealt with her grief. Not sure 100%. But I’m grateful for the foundation I had because of her.

All the information she gave me she got the old school way…calling and writing letters to the family elders. Then she got stuck. She didn’t know how to proceed.

So in 1996 she asked her granddaughter,  who was going to England for a semester,  to check into some things for her while she was there. The granddaughter was really busy studying and flirting with foreign guys and didn’t really do anything. In her defense…she didn’t know how to look up that kind of stuff.

Then in 1999-2000-ish, same granddaughter..aka me…started looking things up online for her Nana. And got hooked by solving the mysteries for said Nana. 

So my unpacking is currently delayed by me hugging her notebooks and running my fingers over her handwriting intermixed with mine, where I filled in blanks for her. 

Even though I proved conclusively we are not related to William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame)…I did find interesting ancestors and entertained her with stories about our people. It was our thing. Like Scrabble and Dancing with the Stars.

So you have Nana to thank if you enjoy mysteries and family history. Cuz…

She started it.

30 Years Later

Mackinac Bridge in Winter.  Photo from Mackinac Bridge Authority's Webcam

Mackinac Bridge in Winter. Photo from Mackinac Bridge Authority’s Webcam.

About 30 years ago, on a blustery, snow-filled winter’s  night, I crossed the Mighty Mac for the first time. Mom was driving; white-knuckling it actually because of the poor visibility and wind gusts.

My five year old inquisitor brother starts grilling with questions, “Whoa, Mom, how deep is that water down there? How far up are we? Is the water cold? Would we…”

My Mom never answered his questions or found the answers for him, as she usually did…due to her intense fear at that moment.

This past Labor Day, half of our family walked the Mighty Mac during the annual Labor Day bridge walk, including the now 35 year old inquisitor. While we were enjoying Mackinac City, Mom finds a paper with Mackinac Bridge fun facts. She smiled and said, “Jeff, I have the answers to your questions. The water under the bridge is  95 feet deep and the bridge is 199 feet above the water.”

We were all laughed, heartily!

But there’s a lesson here too. Sometimes people cannot answer your personal questions. Usually it’s because they don’t know or don’t want to appear foolish or that the truth might embarrass them.

But sometimes it’s because they are flat out terrified. Fear prevents people from being honest with themselves and with you. Fear is the enemy of intimacy and vulnerability. Fear corners people and causes them to behave oh so squirrelly…or mean…or rude.

My mom always tried to help us get answers to our questions, but her fear caused her to be short with my brother & tell him to just shut up.

I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make…other than I love my family and I loathe fear…but this has just been rolling around in my head and I needed to get it out.

PS Random funny..me, my mom and my niece all prefer walking the Mighty Mac to driving over it. We feel safer. Weird but true.