I’ll Be the Record-Keeper

To the right, is one album (of two) I made up of recent trip to Slovenia my younger daughter and I took.  Why’d I do it?  I knew she’d never have the time, and I wanted both of us to have a record of our adventure. 

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Shortly after the holidays, I’m going to sign up with a site like Ancestry.com (I don’t mind paying because after all, they‘ve done all the real work and should get compensated) to give me information about my family of origin.

My family references two countries–England and Ireland (probably some Vikings in there, too.) Our ancestors came through that giant portal so many of our forebears did–Staten Island, in New York Harbor, a fascinating place (we went there on a recent visit,) where I imagined their initial reaction to this Land of Hope–a stark contrast to what they left.

Like the rest, they came to escape poverty, misery, the Potato Famine, or just dour circumstances.

My Dad’s parents both came from County Kerry, Ireland. His mother, Mary, was so rooted in her country of birth that she actually tried to bring American-grown potatoes (Is there a difference?) in a sack when she returned for a visit.

Customs confiscated the spuds that had grown moldy on her journey.

She was a severe woman who had little respect for her own sex; as such, she merely tolerated my mother. But if she were nasty (my mother called her a ‘bitch,’ and my mother never swore), my father’s father ‘was a saint.’  He worked as a day laborer.  Together, they sent 4 of their 6 children through college… quite a feat in the day.

My mother’s parents were another story.  Her father met her mother in a pub in England (but her family was originally from Ireland) and they immigrated to America, early in their marriage, after the birth of two children.

He became the night watchman for the local mill, while her mother stayed home to raise their brood of 15 children. He was a strict taskmaster whom I recall little of, except he was very tall (then again, I was small) and quiet. He was such a non-presence, I don’t even recall when he died and wasn’t around anymore.

Only in later life did my mother share how difficult her childhood was, when dementia no longer allowed her to gloss over reality with the veneer she created.

Our own family (of 6–2 parents/4 children) was completely insulated.  In fact, we almost never saw cousins, aunts or uncles, except for once-a-year, annual picnics my mother’s family had or the Christmas visit to my father‘s sister‘s.  At these, however, we only ever operated on Company Manners.

When I read accounts of families of Italian heritage (ItalianAmericanwriter.com), I’m jealous of their occasions of social interaction and meal-sharing which were, apparently, often and wonderful.  In reading about them, I come away feeling like the Little Match Girl, looking through the window at the Christmas celebration of a family who are comfortable in life, warm and happy, while she is alone.

Yes, I want to know my roots.  Because right now, there’s little about my ancestry that I know. I’ve got a feeling a lot of it could be right out of “Angela’s Ashes,” but in truth, I’m just not sure.

My own children have had scant experience with extended family. While my mother and father were significant in my older daughter’s life (while her father‘s parents weren‘t), my younger daughter, 10 years her junior, missed out on that component in that my father’s Alzheimer’s prevented it. She lacked the grandparent experience on her father’s side, too, in that they were much older when she came on the scene.

Maybe ours is the only generation that truly has the capacity, time, and wherewithal to discover our roots. If that’s the case, we’ll be the only ones to pass the torch of understanding, denoting where everyone falls on that linear plane.

That’s why I’m committed to establish family picture albums.  If my generation doesn’t do it, who will? Because of photo CD’s, there’s a whole generation who won’t realize until too late that they’ll miss out on the fun of thumbing through family photo albums….you know, when everyone sits on a couch and howls through images that track life changes (“Look… Uncle Matt had hair!”)

So, I’ll pass the torch to my daughters (and find out my own roots, in the process).  That way we’ll all have a record.  Then, too, I’ll keep the physical photos of important family milestones and occasions, too, because at some future time, I know they’ll appreciate.

Why?  Everyone sitting around a computer with someone sliding in discs (probably not even labeled) just doesn’t translate to a photo-sharing opportunity, in my estimation.

Now, do tell us what you think?  “Have you accessed your ancestral roots?” “Do you worry, too, that your adult children will miss out on photos as they should be…hand-held and howlingly-funny to share?”

I know what my gifts to family are going to be for the future…CVS has a great and reasonable offer whereby they take one’s digital photos and create a lovely album… for a fee, of course….But it still means:  Someone has to bring the camera card in and select the photos on a computer (it’ll be me).  That way my family can have the CD and the album. Check it out….The artistically-crafted album is below.

About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog, kevinMD.com, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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