The girls and I are doing a 4-H/History/Geography project, and we're looking into our family tree. My father has already made this very easy for us by doing, well, basically all the legwork.
He started it a few years ago, and traced my maternal grandmother's side of the family back to Resolved White, who came over on the Mayflower. Such interesting things to discover! I knew my mother's family went way back in New England, but putting these pieces together is as fun for me as it is for the girls.
I always think of a lot of Irish heritage on my maternal grandfather's side, because he was born in Ireland, but his father was actually from Scotland and it was from there that my grandfather sailed to America in 1911, when he was two years old. Our ancestors on my mother's side are all from Scotland and England -- no Irish that I can see, other than the fact that my grandfather's parents lived there when he was born.
And, on my father's side, it's pretty much German all the way.
It's fascinating stuff, and tucked in with some of the family tree notes were some other things from one of my grandmothers, letters I wrote her when I was in Kindergarten, and eight, nine and ten years old. My girls were delighted to read them, and to compare my handwriting and letter-writing skills to theirs.
Together we read a pack of letters I sent to my grandfather when I was thirty years old. He was suffering macular degeneration by then and was nearly blind. He was still able to read, though, with the help of a special computer/viewer and typed letters were the easiest for him to read. (By inserting the paper in the viewer, the text was magnified on a screen, making it readable for him.) So, one year, not knowing what else to give him for Christmas, I put together a year's worth of letters, one for each month. They were just silly little bits ... thoughts and poems and interesting factoids that I thought would amuse him.
The gift was such a hit that I put together a pack of them for Grandpa for the next year, too. As the girls and I started to read through that stack tonight, we got to the autumn of that year and realized that the last few letters were never opened. That would have been when my grandfather was sick, I suppose. Sometime later, he died. My grandmother apparently never opened those letters.
So, we opened them tonight, my girls and I, and we read through them. Silly little bits. Things I'd forgotten, things meant for my grandfather's eyes that he never saw. And I smiled at my grandmother holding on to them, not opening "mail" that wasn't hers.
My daughters looked concerned when they saw me tear up. They worry about things that make me cry. They needn't worry, though. My tears were tears of gratitude. I was extraordinarily blessed to have four beautiful, caring, loving grandparents, well into my adulthood. Not everyone has that. Yes, I miss them, but I was blessed.
It all continues, and it's the best kind of project.