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Ultimately, we are nothing more than a memory and a few lines in a historical document hidden away in a dusty basement or stored away on some forgotten file that can no longer be opened.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.


Hariklia said...

What a lovely post Leslie. I too remember my little sister coming home from hospital in 1964, and like you and your sister, we are best friends.
I remember the death of Judy Garland. I knew her from the Wizard of Oz film and saw the headlines in the newspaper. I think it was about 1968.
I too have started documenting my family history, but it's very complicated. Both sets of grandparents were refugees from Asia Minor, and to make things worse, three of them died very young in their 30s or early 40s.

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Milex said...

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