Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lost Stories...

She wrote of visiting the Lighthouse, where her ancestors walked, and feeling as if she was visiting the old homestead. I know just what she means.

Each time I board the ferry from North Haven to Shelter Island, something takes a hold on my heart. I remember the story and relive it in my mind, of my young grandfather loading his bicycle into a row boat, rowing across from one shore to the other, unloading his vehicle and traveling away on it, either to East Hampton for work, or home again. It gives me pause each time to think how responsible my grandfather was to go to all that 'work' in order to get to and from his job at Gregory's grocery store.

When I land at Shelter Island, the feeling grabs me again, as I realize that my 'people' traveled those same roads. As I meander around the Island, I drive past the properties where the Beebe family lived. I find myself singing, "On the Street Where You Live." Driving past the Case farmhouse on Ferry Road where my grandmother was born in 1886, where my grandfather courted her and sat singing on that front porch, I flash back to childhood times and remember feeling, even then, that this was a special place for me. It was the place that my great-great grandmother visited her daughter, from her home in Newport, Rhode Island. It was where my GrGrandfather fell from the roof, breaking his neck, causing his death. It was a home where a widow raised her brood of 7 children by running a boarding house. It was the location of the first telephone switchboard on Shelter Island, which was operated by my tiny little Aunt Dot.

What more happened in that house, on that Island that I love so well? Many things, I'm sure, that I will never know. I was lucky to have had a grandfather who enjoyed my company, and who shared his memories as we'd drive to Shelter Island to visit family. I was fortunate to listen to the same stories again and again with each trip, until they sunk in as permanent memories. I wish that Grampa was here today, when I'm truly interested to know his tales of his life in younger days.

I feel that way about each one of my ancestors. Yes, I research their lives as well as I can, but if they were just 'every day' people with no claim to fame, there's not a lot to glean. It seems that in doing just the research as to who married who, and who parents were, that one clue leads to many mysteries. Those mysteries are what keeps me going. I want to know my family, those who live and those who once lived.

And so, I will keep visiting those ancient sites, feeling the pull within me. As I do, it's almost as if I hear the voices of those who bore my DNA cheering me on. "Keep looking...keep seeking." I will do just that, for they are who made me who I am.

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