I've been working on my family genealogy for years. Every now and then, I revisit genealogy websites to check for new info. I was doing that the other night, flipping through the pages of the enormous binder I have. I look for a family name that has been a dead end and try again.
Then I noticed that in the family stories my Uncle Bob has been writing to me, he had a few street addresses. http://www.maps.google.com/ and I was looking at today's picture of the house my Dad grew up in on Pennington Street in Paterson, NJ. I looked at the church where my mother was baptised in Rotterdam, and browsed around the towns of Kalida, Ohio, Biervliet, Terneuzen and Sas Van Gent in Holland. I visited all sorts of places named in my book of family history.
I couldn't remember the house number of where I lived in Toms River, NJ, but I virtually walked around the neighborhood. Then I went to see the school I attended in Woodland Park, CO. I cruised along Tranquil Acres Road in CO, and looked for the spot where I waited for the school bus. I could see our old driveway, but of course the house was too far back to see from the street views.
So I zoomed out and up and looked at the house I grew up in from the air. I could see the little house that my Ohio Grandma lived in, which was on my way home. I could see the chicken house and the big house my Dad built.
As I clicked my way along the road in Colorado, I could see my own childhood again. The area has grown a lot, naturally, since the day 30 years ago when I left it. The trees were the way I remembered them, though, and the view of Pikes Peak is unchanged. I have heard that the house my Dad built was burned in the fires they had a few years ago. Either the satellite images are from before that date, or it was just a rumor. I hope it was just a rumor, because I would like to think of that house as still standing. It was the container for a great many happy memories, funny stories, words of wisdom and family love. It was also a lot of dang work, and I hate to think of all my Dad's work on it vanishing in smoke.
I took a quick trip to our place in Montana and sighed with the emotion it always brings up: that deep love you can have for a place that feels like home, tinged with good sense that you know it's not time to move there yet. If I spend too much time looking at the place, the good sense part starts to struggle, so I clicked away.
It amazes me that we can sit at our own kitchen table and look all around the world. I looked at my sister's house in Tucson and noticed her car was in the driveway (at the time the picture was taken). I feel a little bit like a voyeur, but I love to speculate about such things. What time of day was it when the picture was snapped? The shadows were short on the ground so it must have been the middle of the day. Why was she home in the middle of the day? Was it a weekend? Was she home for lunch? I could also see a patch of black in the back yard that was probably one of her dogs.
What would you see if you took a snapshot moment of my life? It could be anything. If it was a weekend, you would most likely see the sweet hubs outside doing something. Building furniture, turning something on the lathe, landscaping, gardening, or maybe just throwing the ball for our OCD dog. You'd probably have to be able to look through the roof to see me. And you'd find me in either the kitchen or the laundry room. Where else IS there on the weekend?
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could also visit such places at different times? I would love to see what New York City looked like in 1680. Or have a quick look at the Pyramids while they were being built? I'd love to see the view of America from Ellis Island, through an immigrant's eyes. Or to take a walk down the Oregon Trail. I would love to lift the roof on my Grandmother's childhood home and peek in. Or maybe not. She had a sad childhood.
I wonder what new perspective we would all have if we could have that bird's eye view of places and people and events of the past. It might ruin our notions of "the good old days". It would certainly give us a clearer view of the people in our lives. Would you understand your father's strictness better, if you could see how much he wanted you to grow up well? Or if you could see how he was raised? Would you think differently about a teacher you loved or hated, if you could see them in the totality of their lives?
And how would it change the opinions of people who know me, if they could see all of my life, from an objective distance?
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