Saturday, May 30, 2015

Never Alone

Let me tell you about the people who live in my head.

It's always been this way. It started with books. The books I read brought real people to me.

Jane Eyre, Francie and Neely Nolan, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, The Pevensie children-Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan; were all as good as real to me.  Books like "The Call of the Wild" and "Island of the Blue Dolphins" took me to places and times I would probably never experience in the flesh. When Karana survived alone with her dog, by ingenuity, strength, and fortitude, I was there.

So now, as I track down details-alone or sitting with cousins, reading court transcripts, medical files, and newspaper articles, letters written in a time when to move a few states away meant a lifetime separation between parent and child; when I'm mapping out a street from a census record, these people and places are real.

Not just Blanche and Faye, or Louisa, William, and Eveline; but the other characters in their stories who are not my family, come forward and make themselves known. Scenes from their lives are played out in dark archive reading rooms and images from

I see couples trying to blend children from previous marriages, coping with job loss, depression, and addictions; pictures of families with the sun shining on their faces that day they went to the lake. . . .

When an ancestor of mine disengages from a husband, or their best friend leaves town-never to return, I follow. What happened next ? Who did they marry ? Are any of the new people with whom they connect, from associations made and nurtured behind the scenes earlier ? And sometimes, they are. Circles return and layer upon themselves.

I am there--or they are here. We're never alone.