When I think about my genealogy subjects — my dead people — I like to amuse myself by picturing a waiting room. By that I mean an actual modern waiting room, full of non-modern people.
I like to imagine them, in their various period clothes, seated on polyester chairs and doing that waiting-room fidget. They check pocket watches and thumb through wrinkled copies of US Weekly, shifting impatiently until I call them in for attention.
In my head, my Prohibitionist great-grandfather has to manage an Ikea-style chair, while pretending he’s not seated next to a gangster reading about Rachel Ray.
Sometimes the wait takes a while. Sometimes I leave them sitting for months.
I feel like breaks in genealogy research are not only natural — they’re absolutely necessary. The dead, as we know, can be overwhelming. Some painful stories are too much for a heart to hold. A few years ago, one of my cemetery walks turned up a little boy who had died on Christmas Eve. Just learning those bare facts did me in. I didn’t touch my research for six months.
The rest helps the brain as well as the heart. More than once, a genealogy break has allowed my brain to offer up a new research angle that I would never have thought of otherwise.
And if genealogy teaches us anything, it’s that life is to be lived NOW. In the past month I’ve used my non-writing time to complete a Christmas card design for a friend, bake cookies, host guests, and spend more evenings with my husband. It’s been really nice.
But I have these clients in the waiting room… including some new ones:
- a turn-of-the-century astrologer;
- a savvy con artist;
- an ex-slave;
- an enterprising hairdresser;
- a terrifying quack doctor;
- and a few society dames.
And I know Graveyard Snoopette is anxious for another assignment. Time to get back to work. ☗
© 2019 Tori Brovet/All rights reserved