Monday, March 18, 2013

Family Patchwork

I think of families like old-fashioned crazy quilts. The people are all different shapes, sizes, fabrics, and colors. They're joined together with colorful stitches in a variety of styles. Some are green chains, others are blue buttonholes, still others are yellow lazy daisies, green stems, etc. All those unique pieces, stitched together tightly, represent the totality of each family.

But sometimes, pieces are missing, stitches are frayed, and the quilt loses some of its integrity.

My father died when I was seven and large sections of his family disappeared from my own quilt. For most of my life, I lived with huge gaping holes. But, through Facebook, we were able to close the gaps.

However, a couple of weeks ago, two of those pieces were permanently restored.

My cousins, Margaret and Suzanne grew up close to one another. (Their mothers were my dad's younger sisters.) They knew each other all their lives. But my family lived at a distance.

Prior to 2011, the last time I'd seen Margaret was when we were about eight, and I hadn't seen Suzanne since she was three. But in 2011, over Memorial Day weekend, Larry and I were invited to Suzanne's brother Roger's home for a barbeque. The three of us made a great start at reconnecting and discovered we had a great deal in common. A couple of weeks later, Margaret joined us to visit my mother in the nursing home, and she was also restored.

However, the three of us girls had never been in the same place at the same time. That all changed a couple of weeks ago when the other two came to our house for a few days of 'cousining.'

I got practically no sleep the entire time they were with me. We stayed up late talking, and then I was so wired, I couldn't settle down. I didn't want to miss a second.

One day we visited the Dana Point Marina and Mission San Juan Capistrano. The next, we picked up my brother and drove to San Gabriel Mission where we finally found our grandmother's grave along with those of our great grandparents. I knew my great-grandfather was there, but I couldn't find any online records about my great-grandmother. There she was!

The most important thing we discovered was how much we genuinely loved each other. It was more like being reunited with long-lost sisters. We were supposed to go to Catalina one day, but the boat was broken down. It was okay however, because we still have the tickets, and 'the girls' have promised to come back soon. It gave us more time to compare memories and stories.

My family is like a true crazy quilt—including the 'crazy.' But it feels as though the pieces are coming together and are now stitched tightly. I'm confident we won't lose each other again! Now we just have to get Ted and Steve to come next time so all six of us can finally be in the same place!

Have you ever lost family members or good friends and had the joy of reuniting with them?


  1. Even tho you told me some of this story, it was fun to read about the reunion and a few more delightful facts.

    1. Thanks. It has been an adventure of discovery - with a very happy ending.

  2. Disappearing without trace is not the easiest of things to do in today's society: as we're constantly being reminded, there's always 'someone'' keeping tabs on your movements, day and night [though the 'Big Brother' hinted at in programmes such as "Person of Interest" is (probably) an exaggeration/over-simplification of the truth!]
    Still, it can be done. I 'dropped out' for about six months once, at a time when I honestly believed my life was falling apart. Later, when I felt strong enough to cope and made my family aware of my continued existence, their genuine joy and relief made me realise how selfish I'd been to turn away from them.
    Part of my [self-imposed] therapy regime was setting myself to learn more of family background.
    In true Celtic tradition, this took me a long way into times before written records (and the ability to read & write) were common.
    The most important member of any community would be the "Seanch'ai" or Storyteller, who had learned the whole of Clan history from HIS Grandfather, and would eventually pass it on to his oldest Grandson. Stories passed word for word by this Oral Tradition, and have arrived pretty much unchanged. And as first-born male of MY generation, I was granted enough time (just!) to realise the error of my ways and learn from MY Grandfather the story I will one day relate to MY Grandson ...

    1. Paul,
      Thank y0ou for sharing your story. i have traced my own Irish roots (McNamara and Connolly) back to Illinois where the trail ends. When we were in Ireland, we were told that finding genealogical traces can be very difficult. Nearly half of those who came here died before arriving. And in many families, those who remained all died, many without markers.

      Congratulations on preserving your own heritage! (Our Irish grandmother is the one who died in 1923, so we had no one to learn from.)