Sunday, March 3, 2013

Oh, the Places We Can Go…to Find Treasures and More!

If you are reading this blog, then you’re probably interested in family history research in some way. If so, then you are most likely used to scouring different places to find the resources and proofs needed to confirm your theories of “who was who," plus, when, how and where they lived. Even more importantly, you want to know what that person you are researching was really like. You want, and maybe even yearn for, more information about the kinds of things they did and even their thoughts and feelings. If you’re like me, many of those “proofs, facts and descriptions” are somewhere in the huge backlog of files that you’ve accumulated over the years.

About a week ago, my Number 2 Son called to ask me if I could fax a copy of his birth certificate to him. At this point, let me be clear: I often refer to my three sons as Number 1 Son, Number 2 Son, and Number 3 Son, completely in the mode of Charlie Chan, one of my all-time favorite fictional detectives. Also at this point, let me be clear that I never say that to their faces. They don’t like it, and I can’t blame them. (They don’t really understand Charlie Chan.) I just can’t help it; ol’ Charlie had it right, especially for those of us who have problems saying the right name to the right person. I have often laughed about the fact that I grew up thinking my name was “Ri-Carla,” since my Mother always called out my brother Ricky’s name first. It’s not a question of not knowing which child is which, it’s a question of…well, I don’t really know. But I do know that others have assured me that they do the same thing, which is quite a relief to me!

But let’s get back to my Number 2 Son. (I have chosen not to name those three sons here in order to protect the names of the “not-so-innocent!”)  I knew right where his birth certificate was because it’s in “his” file. Yes, I keep a file on each of my children. Don’t you? Each file contains a few samples of their elementary school work, their report cards, their birth certificates, awards, and other things that they achieved and collected over the years. Each child also has some of his birthday cards and other ephemera that is specifically related to him. 
Nevertheless, I keep those files in a small cabinet that has a few file crates of family history "stuff" in front of it, so I had to do some digging around to get to that drawer. Sound familiar? At least I did know which drawer they are in, so I didn’t have to go frantically searching for them as I often do for other files. (Oh, how I need to get more organized!) 
After finding his file, I realized that I had hit a true treasure trove of memories as I went through it. I laughed and cried as I travelled down the years of his life. I saw the wonderful “straight A” report cards that he received as an elementary school student; grades that changed just a tad in high school. I went over each and every award he had received, and I read the newspaper articles that described him when he was the first place winner of a local “fishing rodeo.”  
I also saw a couple of Student Suspension forms; one for tardiness to classes (yes, that word is plural - I think he was very busy socializing!) and one for skipping school. I laughed at the last one because of the wonderful memory it brought with it. 
That’s right, I did say the words laughed and wonderful. During his senior year, he and several of his fellow seniors decided to leave campus and go to the local Taco Bell for lunch. After all, they were seniors…right?  So, off to the Taco Bell they went, full of confidence and pride. What they didn’t know was that the manager of that Taco Bell knew exactly who they were, called the Principal of the high school and locked the doors until he could get there! How wonderful was that? We live in a big city, and that was over twenty years ago. I’m not so sure something like that would happen these days. I like to think that it would. 
The greatest treasure of all, however, was found as soon as I opened the file. In fact, when I saw it, I slammed the file shut and started crying. It was a letter from my Mother - I had recognized her handwriting immediately. When I re-opened the file, I didn’t even look at it until I had gone through everything and finally found the birth certificate at the very back of the file. 
When I was able to, I returned to the letter. It was written to him by my Mother on his 18th birthday and revealed many things that I had forgotten. In her beautiful handwriting, she told him how much she loved him, how special he was, and shared some of her own memories of him. She reminded him that when he was a very little boy, people who lived in her apartment building sometimes thought he was a girl because he was so pretty!  She wrote that he was the grandson that always made her smile when she thought of him because he never walked anywhere – he either skipped, danced or ran! She recalled that he was the one who would always stay up with her on New Year’s Eve whenever she babysat my two oldest sons on that night. She said he would “watch the ball drop” with her while his older brother slept on the couch. 
At one point in our lives (before my second marriage), she moved in with us in order to help out. She was retired, and I was working full time trying to raise two sons on my own. She mentioned in her letter the name of the street we lived on, and how much she had loved watching him dance through the house and hearing him sing in the shower. She also told him how proud she was of him. She revealed her feelings about him in such a special, personal way. I learned more about who she was by reading those words. 
The letter was dated December 15, 1990.  My Mother passed away three months and three days later on March 18, 1991. What a true treasure that letter is.

Look for those special treasures anywhere and everywhere.  You never know where you’ll find them.

Partial copy of letter sent to my son from my Mother on his 18th birthday.

Date of letter

© 2013 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

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