Researching your own family genealogy is just about the most self absorbed project a person can sign up for. You sit down with yourself and begin to plot out all that you know and inevitably your name rests in the center of a notepad from which straight lines shoot out in all directions that are either noted with a question mark or an actual known name of a relative. The resulting chart can look like you are the center of a personal universe created just to beget you as an end result.
When I first started doing my genealogy research the Internet wasn’t even invented yet. There I said it. Yes I am that old and yes the Internet grew that quick. When I first started actually writing genealogy things down in my grandmother’s kitchen it was 1988 and I was just inquisitive, not even something as fancy as a researcher. My grandmother was not keen on visitors of any sort and my mother had intervened and secured me a 24 hour visit. The rules were clear- I had to arrive at a certain time and promise to leave the next day at the same time. Remember that garden? Nothing is going to get in the way of some dedicated gardening time.
I wrote down what she said as best I could but she ran hot and cold on actually wanting to say anything. After relating the story of “everything” going to the dump she wasn’t much for giving any more time to ex-husband family stories. We discussed her side of the family, incredibly rich in stories and countries, and she smiled some with this. I coaxed out of her a shoebox of photos and much to her chagrin I insisted that I be allowed to write down the names of the individuals featured on the back of the photos. She indulged me a handful of photos before her patience was gone and she disappeared with the shoe box into a storage room that I was not allowed to enter.
It was now time to eat. She made a selected harvest from the garden and then went to pick from a sketchy line up of Ball jars on a shelf that rimmed the first steps down into her basement. I stood at the open door and gazed at the jars that contained the results of home-canned chicken; eerie pale meat in what looked like milky fluid. I couldn’t comprehend where the chickens in the glass jars had come from as she kept no live hens on her city property. She tossed the contents of two jars before one passed the smell test. Dinner was a delicious all-in-one cast iron skillet creation made up on the spot with the ingredients she had just collected.
After our feast of basement chicken we walked to Rutland’s center park gazebo where a rather large marching band had squeezed onto the stage and was playing with gusto. Brassy Sousa tunes hung in the air and she hummed and sang along to each selection as we lounged on a blanket. Spying a lemonade stand in one corner of the park we threaded our way through the crowd. She bought two pink lemonades which the sign said were a nickel. She handed me a full paper cup and told me seriously that I wasn’t worth the nickel but I could have it anyway. The vendors, overhearing her comment, gave us a concerned look. I smiled because I knew my cost had been higher than that. I had cost her gardening hours, chicken, vegetables and plenty of tripping down memory lane annoyance. My nickel lemonade was just the dessert of the day and I was happy to have it.