As a teenager I don't think I ever gave a thought about my family's relationships as they existed before my birth. I knew the factual things, births, marriages, illnesses, deaths, but nothing that told me how these events affected them emotionally. It took years before I could picture them, young and hopeful, their lives full of possibilities. Even then, I felt awkward asking questions. My family was not one to display or talk about their inner feelings.
Now, with opportunity gone, there are so many things I wish I knew about them-what games they played, how they fought or didn't with their siblings, how they saw their future when they were teenagers, how they met, how they fell in love, what disappointed them about their lives, what thrilled them.
Prairie Dreams is in part a connection to my family. In Acres of Dreams, set in the 1890s, Katy is sent by her family from Ireland to Canada to stay with a married sister. The goal is to find her a husband. In spite of her own plans, she does meet a distant cousin and marry him, heading off to the virgin territory of Manitoba to homestead. Up to this point, the story mirrors my maternal grandmother's life. After that, it's all fiction.
In the same way I connected to my aunts in Autumn Dreams, a story of the 1940s. Both were one room country schoolteachers, just like Maggie. My Aunt Ethel boarded with families for years as she taught. She retired to a house of her own after a lifetime of teaching, happily single and content to have a place she could call her own. I giggled at the thought of her meeting a man like Marshall who might have swept her off her feet.
I just came back from a trip to the UK, where most of my family originated. It's a thrill to stand in an Irish graveyard and see names familiar to me, part of my known family tree. I spent hours digging through old files at Scottish Families, finding new information about that side of my family.
Now, stories are swirling around in my head as I picture what their lives might have been like. Who knows what adventure and excitement might lie in an ancestry search?