Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gripped Again

     About two years ago I read a book called, "The Perfect Nazi" and the book gripped me. Couldn't put it down.  The writer, Martin Davidson,  researched his grandfather's past to try to determine why his grandfather would have been involved with the vicious Nazi Party. His grandfather would not talk about his experiences after the war so it took thorough investigative work to create a perspective of his grandfather's life in post WWI Germany and how his grandfather willingly joined and thrived in the infamous military regime with his coming to manhood in lock step with the origin and growth of the Nazis.  It was the research that pulled me in. The book inspired me to write my own investigation of my grandfather. I had some unanswered questions about my father's father that I wanted to study as closely as I could in search of answers.  In five installments on this blog from April to June 2012 I posted "My Grandfather's (Sort Of) Secret Past." 

     Now I've been gripped by another book, "The Lost" by Daniel Mendelsohn. I've only gotten through one chapter but I can tell already I'm going to lose a lot of sleep with this one. Mendelsohn describes his Jewish family history as it relates to their origination in the Ukraine centuries earlier and specifically researches the deaths of one family, that of his grandfather's brother, in the Holocaust. The writer's interest was peaked at an early age when older relatives would cry upon seeing him because he resembled his grand uncle so closely. 

         Mendelsohn weaves his research with his childhood observations, interaction with his grandfather,  documents and photos in family files, through a  detailed  historical explanation of Jewish history, holidays, and beliefs. A tapestry of mystery, history, and tragedy. Like Davidson, Mendelsohn hides nothing.  Even family secrets and rivalries, some of which contributed to the circumstances in which family members died, are laid bare. 

     I don't see this one inspiring any blog research of my own. So my searching will go on...right after I finish this book.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

School's Out

My "Write Your Own Life Story" class is over. It was an interesting course, taught at a branch of our local community college. We had to write stories every week based loosely on a suggested topic and then read them aloud in our once a week class to our instructor and classmates. No grading other than the instructor correcting syntax and spelling. And there was no criticism from classmates allowed but if anybody had a story that sucked, the critique of silence was sometimes deafening. I wan't the youngest in the class, maybe the lower 25% in age but, duh, you wouldn't expect very young people to have an interest in writing a life story when their life is just beginning! That's what I figured, anyway. Ages ranged from high fifties to mid eighties. Some of the stories from the older ones were pretty interesting. We were limited to six pages maximum, double spaced Ariel, font twelve. With my motor-mouth typing and vast knowledge of Microsoft Word, it didn't take long to fill up six pages so it was not only a creative writing effort, it turned into an exercise in editing, too as I had to keep condensing to stay within the limits. 

Our teacher was 83 years old. She could talk your ear off and did so many times. Our two and a half hour weekly class almost always extended to three and a half, largely because she had a ton of comments to make. But she was good. I learned a lot. And wrote seven stories about my life which I can use as a start for my memoirs. One thing I'm going to miss about the class is the forced deadlines. I was pretty faithful about writing at the beginning of the week and finishing up editing by Wednesdays in preparation for the class on Fridays. Now that we have completed the course, I'm still writing but without that deadline schedule my writing production has slacked off. I'm weak and undisciplined, what can I say?

Our teacher also exposed us to writing groups in the area.  Some of us attended a reading by local authors who belong to a writer's group sponsored by our local library.  And a local church was auditioning local writers for a presentation of stories to be read later this month, called "In Their Own Write."  I saw the advertisement in the paper seeking writers to audition but didn't think my little six-page glimpses of my life were appropriate. My teacher persuaded me otherwise. So I auditioned and will be reading one of my stories along with about ten other local writers on April 25th. That should be interesting. 

So, as predicted last January when I announced I would probably not be posting much since I was going back to school, I have pretty much put genealogy research on the side for the last three months.  I've made a few stabs here and there on my files but, obviously no posting here in this blog.  One genealogy related event that took place in January is my cousin from Arizona sent me the two fifes that belonged to our great great grandfather, John Currier of Langdon, NH.  John enlisted in the Union Army in October, 1861 and was discharged in November the following year.  He enlisted as a musician and was promoted to "Full Principal Musician" after one month of service. He must have been pretty good playing the fife to serve a whole year with musician as his military occupational specialty. 

Anyway, I'm attaching photos of the fifes on display in my office. I have some "horseshoe nail" hooks on order from Amazon and plan to display the fifes on the wall of my office along with shelves to display the two daguerreotype images I have of John in his military uniform. 

Along with these items I also have about twenty of John Currier's diaries from 1865 through 1883. I feel so privileged to have these pieces of John's life. I'm hoping my memoirs will give one of my descendants the same pleasure.