All in Family Stories
I scanned hundreds of old family photos and uploaded them to Ancestry, along with some information my mother had compiled. Then I gave birth to my first son, and abandoned the project.
I return to Ancestry a few times a year, usually when I’m working on my memoir and want to find a specific date. But I let my subscription lapse, and haven’t given much thought to my extended family tree.
That changed last week, when I received an unexpected email from a stranger.
On our drive to Trough Creek State Park, Mom said, “It’s interesting to see you work through your issues as a mother. It makes me wonder how different my own mother might have been if she’d gotten treatment for her anxiety.”
Grandma took an anti-anxiety drug for decades, Mom continued. But she always found herself needing more. By the time Grandma reached old age, she was taking a dose high enough to kill most normal people.
“The more I think about it,” Mom said, “the more I think she had a lot of the same mental health problems you did.”
A light clicked on in my head.
Instead, she made a book of family history. On the first page she drew a tree, and wrote the names of my relatives across its branches. Then she conducted family interviews and captured their stories.
I didn't appreciate Mom's efforts until later in life, when I became curious about my ancestors. Only then did I realize the importance of the book and the stories it contained.
Last week I dug out my tornado research so I could work on chapters three and four of my memoir. The Palm Sunday tornadoes loom large in my family's mythology. They happened when my mom was a girl, killing 10 people in her tiny hometown and hundreds more across the nation. But that's not the creepy part.