time-travel

You can shoot yourself REGRETTING the things you could have done differently.

Learn and move forward. Just hush the evil inner voices, kiss that fool’s regret goodnight, and go back to sleep.

The only regrets I have are for those things that I have no control over.

For example, I ofttimes regret that I wasn’t ever able to meet, much less know, my grandparents.

Do you ever find your head filled with imagined visions and voices of the people who came before you? If not for them and countless other forebears, you would have never sucked in this absurdly brief breath of time on earth.

It’s a wildly unlikely, miraculous 49 billion to 1 winning lotto ticket that you and I are here.

Occasionally in my daydreams, I transport myself back in time and place. Like a fly on the wall, I find myself in the cozy wood cookstove-heated kitchen of my Mom’s rural childhood farmhouse in the little Ontario town of Hillsburgh.

I see heavy snow drifting onto the outer windowsill above the kitchen sink, split-rail wood fences lining the field in the distance. I listen to the sounds of darned socks excitedly scuffing across wood floors. I feel myself sitting at the oak table fashioned by the hands of my great-grandfather James in the big old barn out back. I inhale some slices of steaming hot bread brought by my Grandma Maggie to the dining room fresh from the oven, slathered with butter. Butter that was hand-churned the day before by my Aunt Mabel in the parlour overlooking the front verandah where the family sits on sultry summer evenings.

Sharing breakfast with my grandmother Maggie, Grandpa Will, my aunts and uncles, and my tomboy Mom-to-be Lila, is magical in this imagined memory.

My grandparents Margaret (Maggie) and William (Will) on their wedding day

My grandparents Margaret (Maggie) and William (Will) on their wedding day June 8, 1898.

For me, it is all imagined because my grandparents were long gone when I arrived on the scene. My grandpa William died unexpectedly after a week long illness in the winter of 1935. In a letter written to my mother 12 days after his death, my grandmother Maggie writes,

Still we can’t help but notice the vacant chair. It seems so quiet.”

Only 8 years later, Maggie was found by my cousin Margie returning from school, resting pale and peaceful on the living room couch, taken by a heart attack.

At that time, I was wandering the streets of Hamilton as a lovelorn sperm and an egg, patiently waiting for a serendipitous meeting years later.

Today, the memories I hold of my grandparents are found only in photographs and in the written letters and stories left behind by my parents and older cousins.

I have questions.

Was my Grandma Maggie able to bake Wellington County’s best apple pie with tart Northern Spy apples growing by the back gate? Did she have a soprano lilt to her voice? Was my Grandpa Will a funny man, a witty story teller, or did he sometimes show a darker side, was he perhaps even a bit curmudgeonly? I don’t think so. His obituary states he:

was held in high esteem by all those with whom he came in contact. His kindly disposition gave him a wide circle of friends and neighbours…”

 

Yes, I’m full of questions that will never be answered, it’s just too late. And this is where I’m going to push you from behind. Before the sun sets on your chance, I want you to capture your dear family memories for your children and children’s children. No regrets, right?

Fourteen years ago, I gathered my clan’s stories into a book for a family reunion.

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My parents 1940 Wedding Photo next to my family stories book …

I collected written memories and stories from my brothers, sisters, and still-living aunts and cousins. Some are humorous, some are bittersweet, some are just fact-based. But they are about real people. Real people that loved others, felt anger, experienced disappointment, people that laughed and cried and worked and played.

Piecing these memories together along with scanned letters, marriage and death certificates, newspaper clippings and photographs, I gave birth to a hardcover book of more than 100 pages.

Inside the front and back covers I lined the pages with what family tree information I had or could find. There’s my Dad’s Green family lineage inside the front cover, my Mom’s Miller family heritage inside the back cover.

The treasure trove of small, personal anecdotes, fond and sorrowful recollections contained between the covers is even more priceless than a Mastercard commercial.

Granted, it took some time to put together. Yet it was worth every minute, especially considering that three key voices – my 96 year-old Aunt Lilian, my sister Marion, and sister-in-law Lois – are now lost forever, their words and memories immortalized.

Their thoughts can be read and shared for generations to come. These are people who will continue to exist because they contributed a few, modest reminiscences of their lives. Look and listen. A misty haze of the ephemeral human soul resides in their words between the covers.

Lacking their tales, their narratives, in a few short years they would remain only as tombstone dates and a photo or two; not real, blood-pumping, personality-rich individuals that meant so much to me and their loved ones and friends.

Genealogy without stories and personality is a pulseless corpse of time passed.

Will your children remember the young lady that was their grandmother when she was out dancing with her girlfriends past curfew and her father drove the streets all night looking for her? Will they know about Uncle John’s miserable night spent in jail after a barfight where he defended your Aunt Judy’s honour?

It’s weirdly fascinating to think that whiffs of my immortal DNA dust will roam the memory halls of the bloodstreams and heads of future generations. We’ll all be someone’s long passed brother, sister, great-aunt or -uncle, grandma or grandpa one day.

Now …

Right now is the time and chance to make your family song immortal, and maybe, just maybe, tell your side of that hilariously misunderstood story before that fateful bus runs, hurtling breathlessly out of control down Main Street like a flash of lightning, sending you into the hallowed halls of history.

No regrets, eh?

Hit by a bus

 

 

 

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