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Tuesday
May012012

Rooted

There are things we take for granted. I'm sure there are things about your life that you think are perfectly normal things that everyone experiences, but, in fact, may be alien to me.

Bacon comes to mind for some reason.

Here in Memphis, the Central Library branch of the public libraries is magnificent. In appearance it looks less like a library and more like a museum of modern art or even a high end shopping mall. As I walk into the glass doors over pavement that is etched with images of Dr. Seuss as well as welcome messages in a variety of languages, including Arabic, there is a coolness that passes over my mind. The only way I can describe it is... I'm home.

It's without hesitation that I tell you now that I belong among books. If we lived in ancient Egypt, aside from the two coins over my eyes for the boat man, I would ask you to bury me with books.

All kinds. Comic. History. Literature. Cooking. I don't care. Keep your gold, bury me with books.

On the upper levels of the Central Library, there's an entire section devoted to genealogy. Stacks and stacks of books charting when people were born, where they moved to, when they died. The first time I walked past this section of the library is most likely similar to the experience that many people feel when they find out for the first time that there are people in the world who don't eat bacon. See, before that moment, they think everyone eats bacon and it doesn't occur to them that there are people out there who can't even conceive of this thing of which they have intimate and every day knowledge.

When I was young, my father would pull out a piece of paper and write a name at the top. More names came from that single name resulting in a long and wide triangle of names until finally one of the names would be mine. He would do the same for my mother's side of the family. At the time, this was just something fun, I thought. I realize now that it was more. It was the passing on of a story of great importance to my father. It was a story he wanted me to not only remember but own. It wasn't until years later that I found out that girls names weren't even put on those family trees, but that, in what I have to admit was an uncharacteristic act of feminism, my father was careful to include my name.

Anyway, until I walked past that section of the Central Branch, I never realized that some of those trees grow as the result of hours of study, countless minutes of sifting and detective work. That what would be drawn out on a piece of notebook paper for me once a month could only be found the corner of Walnut Grove and Poplar for others. It's just funny, you know, how you don't realize how important the important things can be. 

photo credit: Fadzly @ Shutterhack via photo pin cc

 

Reader Comments (7)

I used to be at home among books. The books were home. From my earliest memories until I was about 30. I don't know how it happened or why it happened, but I've moved away from them. Or they from me. Or a little of both. I miss home, but I'm not sure of the path back to it.

Family trees are a whole heap of fun. We have one from my father's side of the family (complete with photos from the past century+) going back to the mid 1800's when they emigrated here. My mother's side is a bit sketchier because her parents were first generation from Ireland and we don't have a lot of contact with the family that's remained over there. Some, but not much. It would be a fun project for someone (hmmm?) in my family to complete a detailed tree.

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterB.E. Earl

If you Google my name, the only thing that comes up that is actually me, is my father's website that is my family tree. He spends his vacation time visiting Ellis Island to learn more about our family, he spends hours looking at articles on microfiche about the births and deaths and deeds of our family line. I don't know if he's put up all the information he's gathered over the years, but he's very fond of telling me when he learns a new tidbit about our family line. He was, I think, the most excited when he found the tribe of Native Americans whose blood runs through my veins. It was one of those discoveries that righted something in his world - our tribe had been mislabeled by history due to their nomadic culture, and their proximity to a more "settled" tribe at the time that my ancestor was brought forth into the world. (PS) I try to not take for granted that anybody has had similar experiences to mine own. It helps me keep an open mind about what their life has truly been like.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllyson

I've actually started dabbling in finding out more of my family's history, but MAN it's a pain in the ass (at least, for me)! I think I'm too impatient to do it.
I love that your dad included you. :)
And I LOVE books. I have a Kindle, but I haven't used it once. Not once. I still like holding a book and turning the pages.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSybil Law

Oh books, I do love them so.

I wish my family had been more interested in keep genealogical information. There's so much I'd like to know, but I don't have a lot of time to go searching for it.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

You know, I just can't enjoy e-readers like Kindle nearly as much as I have always loved the tactile feel of books. My idea of the perfect room would be wall to wall ceiling to floor books.

May 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

@B.E. Earl: I get like that sometimes, too. Every few years, I just don't feel like reading. It's usually because my interests have changed and I keep picking books that I would have liked before, if that makes sense. I've always wanted to go to Ireland.

@Allyson: I love that your dad has a website. Last two times in New York, I didn't get to go to Ellis Island and I was hugely disappointed. I will not make that mistake again this fall when I'm there.

@Sybil Law: I have a Nook. I can't even remember the last time I turned it on. It's just not the same. I think reading is just as much sensorial as it is intellectual.

@Megan With all the online archiving they're doing of libraries and historical documents, in a few years, it'll probably take a few clicks to find the information you need.

@MelissaBefore Tariq and I were married, he promised that one day he would make a house for us with a room like that. I still think he will. :-)

May 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterFaiqa Khan

Your blog seems like 'home' to me :) I just found it today ... I'm hooked

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNisa

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