Friday, September 21, 2012


One of my three earliest memories is of being on a train. Kennedy was killed in November 1963; we took the train to New York City the following month, and in January 1964 my my little sister was born.

I remember my mother crying when Kennedy was shot. For years, I held the memory of our house and that moment very clear in my mind, but once I actually spoke about it and described the event, the clarity was gone.

I remember my sister coming home from the hospital in a big bassinet and her accoutrements taking up the whole back seat of our car. I sat with my legs pulled up, scrunched in the corner near the window, wondering about this teeny tiny baby who later became my very best friend.

My first ride on a train was a bit scary ... the gaps between the cars were huge and I was upset over having lost a toy that turned up later left at home.

I am on a train now, many years later, headed for Lynchburg, Virginia, to discuss my family history with my mother and her cousin.

In the early 1980s I visited my grandmother in Franklin, Tennessee, and attended a Cousins Luncheon, as she called it. I was in my early 20s and the guests were much older, some of them in their 80s. I collected all of their documentation and information the best I could. Over the years, my ability to research has accelerated tremendously. No longer do I have to write letters to court houses, pay people to pull and copy records, and then wait several weeks for them to confirm that X married X in the small town of X. One small piece of information that I can now save to my desktop in a split second. I can reconstruct towns and neighborhoods late at night, in my pajamas, when all of the libraries are closed.

I am now considered my family's historian. I am proud of that role, even if I am overwhelmed by the amount of information I have and the disorganized manner in which I file it.

I don't have any children. It just happened that way but if I can leave behind my family's story, I will have done something significant with my life and something that honors all of those who came before me and those who are here with me now. We are a great story even if we are an ordinary one.

Ultimately, we are nothing more than a memory and a few lines in a historical document hidden away in a dusty basement or stored away on some forgotten file that can no longer be opened. I hope to preserve as many memories as I can for as long as possible.