Monday, August 18, 2008

Memories, like the corners of my mind . . .

This past weekend my mother and I set out for the Quinn family reunion in Virgil, a tiny town just outside Niagara-on-the-Lake. Quinn was my paternal grandmother's maiden name. As we approached the crowd gathered under a stand of trees I scanned for familiar faces, somehow hoping that I'd see people who either looked like me, or looked like my father or my grandmother. Before too long, I spotted Tom Quinn's wide grin as his wife Joanne made her way towards us with open arms. One after another I was introduced to this relative and that relative and given a few clues as to how we were related. It could just have well been Greek as none of it was taking hold in my brain or making any sense. At some point someone passed me a photo album of pictures from previous picnics, where I came across the picture shown above. That's my grandma in the middle, my sister Cindy to Grandma's left, me on Grandma's right, and my brother John and my father Carl in the background. Most everyone I talked to had very fond memories of my Grandma - she was a real sweetheart. I loved visiting her in Niagara Falls. She drove us around in her powder blue Valiant with push button gear shift. Her skin and her hair was so soft. She was a strong and disciplined women. Whenever she'd come to visit us, she would give us each a dollar. I once tried to refuse, and she scolding me - telling me that you should never turn down money. Now, back to the picnic. I asked Viva, the hostess of this auspicious event if I might be able to borrow a pad of paper and a pen. I then made a little chart listing my Grandma's siblings. I then went back to people who I'd been introduced to and located them on the chart. As I made my rounds my brain was starting to acknowledge that I had been here before, although I really had no memory of the event shown in the picture. Bit by bit though, things started to fall into place. One memory would jog another and before I knew it I actually started to have vague recollections of being at the site of the picnic years ago as a child when it was an active farm visiting my rural cousins. The human memory is really quite amazing. It seems as though little bits of information are stored here and there and unless required, they stay out of the way for the most part. It is only when they are stimulated by social interaction and activated by the senses that they fall back into place. In any case, this whole exercise prompted me to sit down at my PC for 3 or 4 hours on Sunday to input what I had learned about my family into a fantastic tool that I found at http://www.ancestry.ca/. This web site lets you input what you know and then invite other family members to contribute what they can. I'm not sure I've figured out why family history is so intriguing to me (and I'm not alone - lots of people are into this), perhaps it helps one to establish one's place in the world and to feel connected. I only wish I'd been more attentive when I was younger and when some of the people who contributed their DNA to my existence were still available to consult with. Take the time now to get to know your family. You never know when they'll be taken from you.

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