Wednesday, September 8, 2010


My mother put a positive spin on everything. No matter what I asked her, she fudged the truth. “Why did your mom and dad divorce?” I asked her. “Well,” she said, “I don’t really know. I never asked. I was a teenager kind of wrapped up in my own life; I guess they just didn’t get along.”

It wasn’t until I got a copy of the divorce papers and saw that Grandma alleged extreme cruelty and that her husband wasn’t fit to have custody of the kids that I realized how much my mom chose not to tell me.

My mother told me she once put daddy’s clothes in a suitcase and set them on the front porch, letting him know that if he didn’t stay home more, he could just move out. Knowing what I know now, he was working on a mine venture in Angel’s Camp when they were married and she was living in Southern California taking care of her young siblings while her mom worked. This was during the depression – 1932 or 1933 – and I can’t believe she didn’t understand when she married Dad that there would be separations until he got the mine issues resolved. I wonder if she really intended to end the marriage if he didn’t “shape up.”

I wish I knew the answers to these questions. It wasn’t that I didn’t ask; she just didn’t tell us kids anything, even when we did ask.


What we gather in our genealogical research, if we go after family history as well as the facts we gather for our Family Group Sheets, will sometimes give us ideas of what might have happened. This enables us to construct a possible scenario. But it would be so much better to really know what happened.

I began working on my “official” life story (which I call “My Life in Bits and Pieces) about fifteen years ago. Since my life has been mundane and uneventful, it seemed quite useless to try a chronological retelling. I mean, there really was nothing to tell. But I found that I had lots of little “stories” to share, and I started writing them down. None of them were important events, but they did illustrate a piece of my life.

In my elementary school years I went to three different schools, and I had a little boyfriend in each one. At Lafayette school there was a darling little boy named Bobby in my Kindergarten class I mooned over. At Willard school where I went first through fourth grades cute little Jerry and I were an item. We attended each others’ birthday parties and we gave each other a little Christmas gift.

Finally in fifth and six grades at Whittier elementary school, a cute shy red-head came into my life, and there were CC+BD’s carved on more than one tree in our neighborhood. I suspect we did some hand-holding too, but I can’t remember for sure. Each time, I really thought I was in love.

I wrote a tiny little “story” encompassing these childish love-affairs as one of my “bits.” I called it “Recollections of a Shy School-Girl”. Granted, it doesn’t tackle big issues like wanting to know about grandma and grandpa’s divorce, but hopefully it will do two things:

Firstly, it will give my children a word picture of a part of my childhood and how different and yet the same our childhoods were. And secondly, with any kind of luck it will cause every reader of this blog to take a trip down their own childish memory lane and see what they can save for their kids.

As for genealogy, I have loved knowing more about my ancestors. In most cases I am lucky if I have a single written record of something that described a life: in once case I have a really good obituary; in another I have a copy of a letter written to the US government about a widow’s pension. A third treasure I have is a letter written by crusty old Rev. Dobbins who in 1847 in a fit of pique quits the Presbyterian Church. And lastly, I own love letters written to my grandma from a suitor when she was 16. I treasure those “bits.” They make my ancestors much more real to me.

I don’t want to be remembered as just a statistic on a Family Group Sheet. My “Bits” – as well as the pieces (blogs, essays, letters to the editor, etc. that I’ve written over the years) is still in progress. No one is going to get a good solid literary book as a legacy from me, but certainly they are going to know more about who I am/was than I knew about my own mother or Grandmother. And I am pleased about that.

Anyone can write a “bit.” You certainly don’t have to be Shakespeare to do it!

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