I was trying to sort out a two-word anagram while in half-sleep Sunday morning. Bouncing off the hollow space within my brain, two young girls ran about in their circa 1950’s church-best clothing. Full shirts, petticoats, ankle socks and patent leather shoes, small straw hats topped hair that curled to their shoulders. The anagram was floating away while the two girls pushed me forward and out of my dream. The imps reminded me of two dolls I’d played with as a child, one was the good girl, the other was the bitch.
In my slumber, I tried to arise from bed and find paper and pen to write out the two words. I’d figured out the spelling of the anagram and the solution. Of course, by the time I actually awoke the words were gone, along with the girls. The answer haunted me all day.
For three years I’ve been working my way through my husband’s family tree. His genealogy is extensive. While still a child, he’d been brought up on an oral tradition of stories and history passed along by his grandparents and the elders of his large family. His family roots were planted long before the extensive research available on the internet. When I started an Ancestory.com membership and began work on his family, those stories, did in fact, point to the very places in his family’s oral traditions. They had kept the stories alive for more than four centuries. Geneology is my addiction. I’m heavily invested in all types of research. Once uncovered, facts are to proven. Additional research, outside of Ancestory.com is opened, with scribbled penmanship, notebooks, outlines, beginnings, endings and do-overs. Researched notables and historic side adventures diagramed.
I time-traveled early 3,000 years into the past and wondered what did these people talk about, dream about, wonder over. Did they even think they would leave a legacy that centuries into the future hundreds, thousands, of their descendants would be curious about? Did they know they were creating historical moments in time? Were they capable of knowing there would be such a thing in the future as the study of their history?
The past has become more important to me than the present. My husband’s past is my present. My past only extends to my grandparents. They left no photographs, no notes, no names. With extensive research I’ve only managed to uncover the names of the towns they were born in and their birth dates. They’re from Eastern Europe, ravaged by wars, small villages, records lost or not yet uncovered and posted online. I have an emotional connection to their past but I can’t access it. Although I’ve tried to find it. It remains illusive. I long to know these long gone people who can’t possibly connect with me. In knowing their past I find comfort from my lack of acceptance with my own present.
In real life, my past was closed down, pulled from me, taken away, or unattainable. My life, as that of my own family genealogy, mirrors a life of no trail left behind. Less than ten photographs of me exist prior to me by the age of fifty. I remember each one, even those not in my possession. I don’t even appear in my high school year book. Since then there are a few photos of my back, a couple of carefully crafted telephoto shots, some highly Photoshopped pics, and a couple of professional engagment photographs.
I have no problem with the difficulty the two dream girls faced attempting to pull me into the present. It’s been several years since I lived in the present. The past couple of years I’ve fallen even deeper into the past, distancing myself from any possibility of leaving a legacy of accomplishment in anything.
Unlike the genealogical deep roots of my husband’s family tree, my family planted seeds of maladjustment that rooted firm and unshakable. Two years ago I set my goal to give one last shot at hitting my life’s target goals. When the deadline passed a year ago, I wavered and let myself ride through it – knowing nothing was going to develop. Midway through last year I started this blog. I found a way to use a small bit of my old talents, brush off my rusty skills, and push on. When the past year ended, after thirteen years, I closed my business website and its Facebook page. I’d finally accepted that a family clash a few years ago, that ended my photography business and its income, had also ended any hope for a future as a photographer.
My legacy is to always lose what I’ve worked towards. There has always been someone stronger, wealthier, more popular, or connected, to shut me out, down, steal, lie, or ignore my contributions. I’m terrified of being noticed, acknowledged, having nothing to say. I’ve become an empty vessel, a waif unto myself. I’m further down the trail by learning how to cover my tracks. No one will know I passed this way. I will leave no trail behind. I will move silently among the stream of internet transfer information and only that trail could show I actually existed. It will be rare indeed that anyone will ever seek it out and follow it back to it’s source.
8 thoughts on “Leave No Trail Behind”
Very interesting! I’m thinking of taking one of these tests http://dna.ancestry.com to find out where my ancestors came from. I have an uncle that have done a lot of research about our relatives and I know a lot about the past 250 years or so, but not further back. It is very interesting. How much have it shaped the person we are today?
It’s amazing how closely my husband follows the moral and religious decisions his ancestors made, I’ve also discovered in our conversations just how much he actually knows about world history, subjects we normally would never have though to discuss. What an adventure it had been. I think in my own case DNA would probably be the only answer to where I came from. Having Hungarian ancestory, I have to wonder if the Mongolian hordes gave me Asian genetics. I’ve always felt a strong connection to Asia and Native Americans.
I can relate, it results in the same kind of discussions for us. My husband is sure (only by feel) that he has ancestors in Mongolia. Which I think is possible.
Are you tempted to take an DNA test? I’ve wanted to do it for quite some time, but haven’t really gotten around to do it.
It’s a complex process. If I read the test types correctly, the only valid information that is usable comes from the male lines. Female DNA is almost useless, unless you have a brother, father or close cousin to collect and submit DNA for your family name. In my case, none exist on either side of my family. I don’t think the female markers can tell what part of the world your ancestory came from except for a small portion several thousand years ago. All the important information seems to rest in the male DNA. I know while doing my husband’s tree there I noticed there were several family lines that had already had their DNA done. It appears it is going to be the standard by which ‘real’ family members are welcomed or excluded within the historic lineages. I think that is a fair way to weed out the wannabes. I still have to do more research. It’s one of those tests that starts out with an inexpensive entry offer, but gets costly by the time the tests that actually provide necessary information are added in. It will be easier to submit my dog’s spit to see what breeds make up her joyful blend of mutt. 🙂
I don’t know it helps at all, but though your story here is a sad one, you tell it very well. And the photographs are quite beautiful. There is such a clear connection among the images, the lost history of your forbears, the obsession with your husband’s ancestry and tendency to live in the past, and the lack of images of you form your own past. I hope you have some satisfaction from the telling!
Thanks, I’m learning that connection to the past is very important. Like a tree, having roots do give us something that holds fast when we’re questioning why we’re here. Cultures all over the world, and through out history have always had some kind of tradition that passed down their history. One America was settled, it appears, so many ancestors were so eager to become Americans, they buried their past. Sad.
There were some beautiful shots.Ancestor history always amazes me, I shall try to find about it sometime.