Being the youngest child in the family meant my brother and my older cousins usually went off to play and left me behind. I spent a lot of time with my mother and aunts, quietly listening to "girl talk" and along the way learning a lot that the older kids never heard about.
Even now, I will occasionally say something and have one of them look at me blankly. One of my cousins recently asked me how I knew the cause of death of so many relatives. I grew up and kept listening. I researched. I talked to other folks in the family, especially the elderly folks. I find the past fascinating and I love to learn about it.
It's the same reason I have become addicted to a new TV show called Timeless, about a team [historian, soldier, pilot] traveling back in time to try to solve a mystery. I can totally get behind that idea, of chasing a bad guy across the centuries.
I get sorta the same feeling, except much more real, when I read the blogs written by my mom. How many 82 year olds do you know that write a blog?
See, here's the thing that is most fascinating, to me: every human being on earth is a puzzle, made up of countless pieces. The pieces are attitudes, beliefs, memories, likes, dislikes, talents - and so on. How do we solve each human puzzle? We look at their past. We look at how they solve problems We look at how they treat others.
So much data.
I like learning about my family and about history and hearing family stories for another, rather selfish reason. I am a writer. I am always looking for something to write about. There are tons of stories on both sides of my family, stories that are easier for me to bring to life because in most instances I know the people involved.
I recently wrote a short story loosely based on my great-grandmother's life and I wrote the entire thing in one sitting -- which never happens. Never. I felt like she wanted her story told. She was a remarkable person. I wish I could have met her.
I've got some other stories in my head I am pondering. Haven't started them yet. Here are a few ideas. Let me know which one you like best, in a comment.
Two of my grandfather's brothers, I recently learned, were "rum runners" during Prohibition, running liquor in from Cuba on a fast boat, down in Florida.
My grandfather [Hasty] had a rare blood type and he got called to the hospital all the time to donate blood. One time it was his wife's aunt. He lay on a gurney right next to her and they somehow did a direct transfusion and his blood saved her life.
After my grandfather [Hasty] died, my grandmother woke up one night and saw him sitting in a chair near her bed. Another time she woke up and saw the hand of Jesus, floating in the air.
I have a relative -- a handsome guy -- who has never married and has spent his whole life in love with a woman he could never have.
My great great grandfather [Hasty] was a "sharpshooter" [sniper] and was captured during the Siege of Vicksburg.
My dad told me a story years ago about when he was a teenager and he was paid to take a shotgun and ride on a truck with the ballot boxes on election day, to get the ballots safely to Augusta to be counted. One of the old-line racist factions of the Democratic party was planning to destroy all the ballots that weren't votes for their candidate. Dad had to guard the ballot boxes. [I wish I had listened more closely to that story...]
My dad was supposed to get shipped off to Korea but he went out drinking with a colonel and got him drunk and the guy changed Dad's orders to Germany - so he got to be a clerk and sightsee on weekends instead of getting shot at in Korea - likely why I am actually here, because he didn't get killed..
One of my Thompson uncles was alone on an island in the South Pacific for months, looking for the Japanese. He came home and stayed drunk for weeks, he was so traumatized by his experiences.
One of my Thompson cousins, much older than my dad, made his living as a professional gambler in South Georgia.
So many stories.
I showed my mom the photo below and she was able to tell me all about this trip, where, when, why they were staying at this place, all of it. The actual photo is less than 1 inch square..