Saturday, May 12, 2018
Those Questions we Never Thought to Ask
Do mothers whose birthday falls on Mother's Day suddenly feel like the kid who just realized his birthday falling on Christmas Day means he's missing out on half the fun?
I never asked my mother that question, but since her birthday was on May 12—today, if she were still with us—she often did find it doubling up with Mother's Day.
Most of us, I imagine, can think of many other questions we never thought to ask our mothers while they were still with us. Not that my mother took family secrets with her to the grave, mind you, but there were other details that could have filled in a more complete picture of who she was throughout all of her life, not just when I finally grew up and realized she had a life trajectory that extended far before I ever came on the scene.
Those of us who have learned research techniques for delving into our family history have discovered ways to replicate those details we never got around to asking our mothers about. When it comes to reconstructing a real person, however, those details are like the joints on a skeleton—vital details, of course, but bare bones when it comes to the story of someone's life.
I'm grateful for those connecting nodes on my mother's "skeleton"—her family tree. I never thought of it before, but I actually would have liked to be able to thank my mother for giving me some really interesting ancestors. Some of them had fascinating stories—at least the parts I've been able to discover.
Then again, perhaps she didn't know, either. It would have been fun to sit down with her and tell her just what I've uncovered about her ancestors' stories. Perhaps she never dreamed that using mitochondrial DNA would confirm just who her orphaned great-grandmother's parents were. Then again, she couldn't have known that, with the click of a mouse, I could pull up the census records showing her teenaged great-grandmother's residence in the house of an aunt and uncle—a far less sci-fi scenario than the mtDNA episode.
Today, though it is her birthday, there won't be any one-two punch—piling up birthday presents today on top of Mother's Day plans for tomorrow. But I think of her, just the same. She's a very real, very tangible part of the long stream of ancestors whose stories all deserve to be told—and remembered.