Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Building a Mystery: My New Obsession with

I have fallen into the rabbit hole that is What I have uncovered in just a few days has been illuminating. Most ancestry research findings wouldn't interest anybody outside of that family, but I'll share with you some general, interesting discoveries. It has to be more interesting than the post I wrote about baby bibs. I'll need to separate it into a few posts, and this post explains my motivation for doing this in the first place. If the mention of geneology is making you doze off on your keyboard, at least skip ahead and read Reason 3.

I broke down and signed up for three reasons:

1. The damn commercials got to me. You know the ones, they start out looking like eHarmony ads, but instead of meeting a real person who found their soulmate online, we meet people who discovered extraordinary facts about their ancestors. I wonder what my family tree will reveal? Whatever it is, it has to be more interesting than whatever Khloe and Lamar are doing.

2. While you're drinking appletinis at the club on Friday night (or whatever it is you hip, single people do) I'm sitting on my couch watching TV. Who Do You Think You Are?, the show where famous people unlock family secrets, has captivated me. It's amazing what you can learn about family members who have been dead a hundred years. Sometimes I sip on a glass of chardonnay while I watch it. It is the weekend, afterall!

3. My son. When I evolved from daughter to mother, my perception of previous generations also evolved. People I once viewed only as parents or grandparents now appear as more dynamic figures with complex histories. I suspected all along that the people I know as Mom, Dad, Nannie and Bobby had lives and stories that stretched beyond parenthood. I've seen the photos of the leggy blonde in hot pants (Mom). I've read the yearbook inscriptions of a precocious teenager (Nannie). I've seen the tattoos (Bobbie). I guess in my new role as mother, I have a new awareness that I don't know the whole story. 

Becoming a parent in and of itself isn't the only factor driving my curiosity. I named my son Robinson Reid after my maternal grandfather who died when I was ten, who I've always called Bobby. This shared name has caused me to think of my grandfather a lot. That entire limb of my family tree is nothing but ghosts whose names I don't know. I didn't ask many questions as a little girl, but I knew a few facts:

1. Bobby was raised in Ohio, and represents the only segment of my family that isn't southern.
2. Bobby lost his father before he reached adulthood. His mother died from childbirth--his birth. His brother died when my mom was a kid.
3. Bobby lived in military boarding school from the age of seven.

Perhaps understandably, I didn't push the issue. In the absence of information, I drew my own conclusions. Whether accurate or not, I always felt sadness over what must have been a lonely childhood for Bobby. I'm sure a shrink would want to explore the symbolism surrounding my decision to name my son after a motherless child.

My Robinson's birth ushered in a new generation, which forced me to acknowledge my previous generations in a more meaningful way. I know virtually nothing about a major part of my heritage. Realizing that many of the answers are at my fingertips has proven too tempting, so I'm just diving into it.

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