I have been busy – am still busy – with sorting data and photos from a recently found stash of family records and family heirlooms.
Among the items were obituaries of long-gone ancestors from both sides of my family. I have been enjoying taking the quiet time to sort through things, transcribe handwriting, translate German letters from my great-grandfather to my grandmother, identifying family members from several generations ago and scanning it all to share with my siblings and long-lost cousins (no longer long-lost).
If you have been through the process and loved it you already know how endearing such items can be – maybe not for the items themselves, but for the family history they represent.
If you haven’t been through the process, Nobel Laureate Thomas Mann said it perfectly in his book “The Magic Mountain.” A young Hans Castorp was listening to his grandfather name all the predecessors who had used the family christening basin. At the naming of the great-great-great-great relatives, at first he thought
” . . . what a hollow sound it had, how it spoke of the falling away of time, yet how it seemed the expression of a piously cherished link between the present, his own life, and the depth of the past.”
That’s where I am positioned for the moment – at that piously cherished link. I remember some stories my grandmother told me and now I can put faces to most of the names.
Turns out, I have more very old dishes to wash, some more long-gone relatives to identify in photos, and a set of twins no one in the last three generations knew about to add to a particular branch to the family tree. Right now I am enjoying the look back.
It’s fun! When I share details of what has been revealed in records, I become a storyteller. The stories are important to share. When I speak of individual family members to Goodnight, she will interrupt by adding how they are related to here, where they lived or whose grandparents they were. Thus, she has embraced the ‘piously cherished link” as well.