I Must Apologize, Because Even I Don’t Like Everything I Write
I am sorry that some of the words I spew out here are dull and colorless, pale imitations of what I should be doing. If I were someone who embarrasses easily, I’d kill a lot of it halfway through writing it.
But I do not, because I do have my reasons. Very simply, I’m documenting my more mundane thoughts for some future reader. I’m doing that because recently I was given a treasure trove of old family photos, art, and a tiny bit of writing. The photos are fascinating because many are originals from the early history of photography. The artistic talent is present in much of my extended family, though those genes, sadly, did not express themselves in me. I enjoyed the art both for its innate beauty and because I am lucky enough to have known some of the hands that created it.
But I wished there was more writing, more stories about who people were at their core, what they did, what they read, what they thought. That’s what’s missing here; I can’t get an understanding of their minds. I’d love to read about my grandfather complaining to a shopkeeper about the quality of the meat offered. I’d love to know what my grandmother thought when her husband told her about his wish to leave Boston and build a home in Sharon. I’d be enthralled to read my other grandmother’s words on how they fell from relative wealth during the Great Depression.
It’s a shame that I developed this curiosity so late in my life. I could have asked some of the people directly involved if I wanted to know these things when I was in my twenties. There would have been letters and other memorabilia from others who had already passed. I could have learned so much and saved so much from destruction. But that didn’t happen, and my regret won’t change a thing. I suppose I am fortunate to possess as much as I do, so many families have nothing at all.
Among the items I do have is a lovely eleven-page history of my mother’s family as told to my sister. The first page refers to Tom Davies, my great-grandfather on my mother’s side, who apparently wrote letters in jingles. I ache to be able to see those letters, but if they exist anywhere, I am unaware of them. I have an extremely hazy memory of my mother showing one to me once, but I was too young to grasp the significance.
I have another snippet of writing from the Judah line of our family. It was transcribed from something written by someone born in 1830; he doesn’t tell us much about himself, but he does mention a few details about his brother’s lives. He mentions that one brother was a sea captain, which was interesting because my father had a chest and some bottles that he said came from a sea captain. My father identified that person, but later research by my cousin found that the person he named was not a captain, but a postal clerk. Was that seafaring brother the original owner of the chest?
When we were children, my father would sometimes bring out the 8-millimeter movie projector and play his movies for us. Some were of our family, typical silent home movies. One was a farce where my father, a friend, and my mother pretended to be hunting some fabulous creature in the wilds of the Amazon. He had filmed it in the woods of Sharon, woods we all knew very well, and narrated the tale of the search for the creature.
Another movie was of his time on a sailing ship at the Mass. Maritime Academy. All of those movies are lost, but the ship movie was transferred to DVD at some time. Unfortunately, that’s also lost now. What a shame those never made it to YouTube! All I have is some stills taken on the ship and that one still from the jungle movie.
My father did leave us a copy of a Massachusetts Maritime Alumni magazine that had a story about The Nantucket, the boat my father trained on. He left a note in the margin saying that he had joined the ship just after the hurricane incident described in the story and knew all the men mentioned. Although the story was not something he personally experienced, reading it did make my his pictures from the ship and what I can remember of his movie more real to me.
He was also a weaver of stories. When I was very young, he told me bedtime stories of Brownies who lived in the trees of the nearby woods. I cannot remember any of them now, but they were so inventive and fun that my sisters, five and seven years older, would sometimes sit in to listen.
I know that my father did write down some stories. I’ve mentioned one at my Owl and the Terrible Green Insect tale, but although I cannot recall the details or even why he wrote other things, I do remember him writing. Perhaps he did put down some of those Brownie bedtime stories. What I would so love to read those today.
My family has always written letters to each other. Most of those letters are lost, but a few do survive. My wife thoughtfully saved many letters our children wrote to us over the years, and I have scanned them to preserve those memories. My father’s mother and her daughter and I also swapped letters; I hope that some may turn up in some long forgotten box I have put away somewhere.
I mentioned at Reconstructing my Paternal Grandfather that I was shocked when my father’s mother told me that she had thrown out her diaries because she felt no one would want to read them. This is a woman who once made a desperate horseback escape from Santo Domingo, pursued by soldiers. I would love to read those diaries!
Because of my quest to know my ancestors, and leave more for unknown curious people in the future, I sometimes write silly things that almost no one will read, no one will applaud, no one will care about. I do look for memories that have some lesson in them, or at least some small amount of humor, but I know that not all reach even that low mark. Nobody will read them, nobody should read them.
But someday perhaps someone will, and perhaps they will find some satisfaction. I hope so.