Monday, April 24, 2017
They say you never can go home again—not really. With the passage of time and all the experiences that entails, things are never quite the same as they were the last time you left.
In my case, it's been several years since the last time I left my childhood home in New York. But this week, I'll at least get a chance to drive by my old home, pass the church and high school I once attended, slip down the one road which could qualify as the town's Main Street—don't blink—and see if the old pizza parlor where we hung out on Friday evenings is still in business.
That's not the only reason I'm going back, of course. Like the draw of genealogy, itself, it's the people drawing me to the destinations I visit, not the static elements of dates, names and locations. I'm touching bases with family I haven't seen in years. While we can now connect—even daily, if we wish—by text, phone, or even video chat, there is nothing like being there in person, where we can talk, face to face. The more the years separate us from a daily life of living all together, I'm grateful for these opportunities.
Today, in particular, I'll be traveling with one sister to visit another sister. Over the years, the family has split from our one home state to establish families of our own in several different states, and even across the continent. Having the chance to drop in for a visit becomes infinitely more complicated, once our lives have pulled us in so many different directions.
I think the draw of family history research mirrors the mystique of that familial tie that binds. Love them or not, the folks we grew up with are, well, family—and there is an unspoken something that pulls us back together. Could it only be the pull of the DNA that we share? Surely there is much more than that, no matter how powerful that invisible link may be.
Tracing the wisps of that tie, the echoes from previous generations—the fruit of which made us the individuals we are—becomes the pursuit of family history. We re-enact—on paper, at least—the ties binding members of previous generations together and commemorate once again that mystique of familial ties.
While we may never truly be able to return home again—to that place where we all once lived—we still seek to capture tho relationships and experiences in the micro-histories we draw up to represent who we once were as a family. The passage of time may erase the place we once called home, and even the faces which once could be found inside that familiar front door. But the stories we capture on paper—these we can preserve and pass down through the generations, the intangible (and only) part we can return to, generation after generation.