Friday, July 18, 2008

Old Things

I got back a couple days ago from Vero Beach, Florida. Brandon’s folks live down there, and they have—at least on vacation—for generations. His great-great grandfather drove down from Indiana, in pre-interstate days and built a house there in 1917; apparently, no one wanted a house right on the ocean then. It’s still standing, close to downtown, with additions and updates.

Given my own little genealogical project, this strikes me as indescribably cool, to have this place that your family can claim as its own. If you want to know a little bit of the town’s history? Dude, you just ask your mom! Apparently in the ‘50s, there were two columns with a big wooden sign that read “Welcome to Vero Beach.” Today, just one of the columns is standing with no apparent purpose. Brandon’s mom knows this, first-hand.

I love this shit. Me, I went up to Pennsylvania earlier this summer and drove around looking for where my great-great grandparents lived. I took my grandma with me and drove down a windy road to a tiny coal town. It was completely unfamiliar, except in the way that all of western Pennsylvania is familiar to me, with the dark dirt and leafy trees and the roads that dip up and down. Gram and I searched for a good twenty minutes before we actually found what we were looking for: a small collection of houses that made up the town where my great-great grandparents lived and died. It was the physical location, but where they lived—with men fighting outside the Hungarian Club, a movie theater where these immigrants got a taste of Hollywood, mine shafts that children feel into—doesn’t exist anymore.

On one hand, it saddens me. But on the other hand, it’s some serious progress that I didn’t grow up in a company house; that, in fact, our house was “California style,” with a great room and brand-new furniture. In my family, we’re always rushing to whatever’s newest. Our family recipes always call for a brand-name something, and “antique” means “used” and not something we want.

Ladies, it’s hard out there for an amateur genealogist.

1 comment:

BarbaraCA said...

I miss my grandma, terribly, sometimes, in a way I didn't in my twenties. Many, many years after she died, we discovered secret family members and all sorts of stories. I would give A LOT to just have her tell me some small stories.