The Nutshell Story (or “Nostalgia Takes Up Genealogy”)

I was just starting to catch up on family correspondence, when the serene atmosphere was pierced by


Looking out the dining room window, there she was — almost unrecognizable — Nostalgia, dressed in a charcoal gray two-piece suit … a little more dignified than her last visit, but unfortunately, still as frantic.

“Your gate is still broken, Dearie,” she reported, as I removed the hex bolt and she darted past. “You’ve got to get that fixed!”

“Is something wrong?” I asked, following her into the house and removing some of my papers and notes from the dining table.

“I have news,” she chimed, shaking what looked like legal documents in my face.

“You’ve been subpoenaed to appear in Court?”

“No, I can help you!”

“Help me?” My mind rushed through previous experiences from BBQ/grilling to child-rearing to travel planning … and none of them turned out well. “Help me with what?” I fearfully asked.

“Why this, Silly!” she exclaimed with delight, grabbing my laptop and clicking away. “I’ve got Ancestry on my smartphone!”

“How long have you had Ancestry on your smartphone, my Dear?” I inquired as I set down a steaming cup of coffee beside her.

“Three days.” she replied, with her nose almost glued to the computer screen. “You should try it!”

“I’ll put it on my to-do list,” I said, as I tried to figure out another detailed question to ask her in order to pry away my laptop.  I had a couple, but neither were very original.

“How long have you been interested in genealogy? And how much information have you collected?”

“Three days,” she smiled, “And lots – you wouldn’t believe it!”

She then told me she had typed in two names and little shaky green leaves appeared from out of nowhere — for each leaf she clicked on, more would appear …  she did this for three days!

Lord, help me, I whispered, as I struggled to remember the last time I backed up my research files.

“How long have you been working on this, Dearie?” she asked.

“I inherited a bunch of notes when my GranDa died in 1982,” I recalled, “but I started when I was nine.”

My first exposure to genealogy was a school history assignment that went terribly wrong.
The nutshell story: Our family tree, I thought, was a fifteen-year-old Maple tree in the center of my Mother’s garden. I came home happily thinking “I’ll get an A” if I just dig this thing up and take it to school …

Except for two problems:
[1] blisters from digging a six inch deep hole — just big enough to hide one of my shoes and little else!  (I began wondering if completing the assignment was really that important, at this point); and,

[2] Mom. (I didn’t know the stupid tree was a present from “Gramma Rabbit”!)

We argued … I let her win (contrary to what she might tell you.). Upset that I would probably fail grade three, I ran off to my secret hiding spot … which wasn’t very secret, because Gramma Rabbit (paternal side) was there waiting for me with a beaten up book.

Between the two Testaments, were various samples of sloppy handwriting.  When I inquired what it was, Grams had told me it was her family tree.

But it didn’t look like a tree at all, I had told her — it didn’t help matters any that I couldn’t read French either!

Every week that Summer, Grams took me to the local cemeteries to meet different generations of “The Family.”  The cemeteries were near the old railway lines by the harbour; they were filled with monuments of many varieties — not all of them stone — in vast, green estates.

I became acquainted with her parents and grandparents, her siblings and their spouses, her in-laws, her husband and a son that died “too soon.”

I was brought back to the present by an ear-piercing smoke alarm.

“Sorry, Dearie,” Nostalgia replied as she blindly dipped into her purse to shut off the klaxon coming from her vibrating phone. “Oh, I’ve got a meeting to attend, bye bye!”

Getting up, she rummaged through her handbag for a small plastic object. Satisfied, she placed it on her head.  I looked at her puzzled, and she noticed.

“It’s the annual meeting of the Grand Order of the Noble Daughters of the Royal Tiara,” she smiled, “I’m a Charter member.”

“Where –“

“In California,” she replied, grabbing my last box of chocolate chip cookies (“Something for Maven,” she smiled) before dashing out the door, “See you in a week, Dearie!”


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