Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Autumn Tree

I’ve known for a long time that I’m a morning person. I tend to be too cheerful for some as I flit around in the morning, but once I’m fully awake, I’m ready to face the day. My best ideas come in the morning, too. I know that’s a great time to tackle a creative project such as a twenty-page essay or report.
The muse struck again this morning, though admittedly a little earlier than usual. As I write this, it’s 4:45 am and I was originally awake to wait for a teenager to finally make it home. To pass the time (and keep from worrying too much), I jumped on the internet.  I went to my newly-created blog to add some things. This blog is not that old. I created it at the beginning of September, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while. I confessed to Donna Pointkouski how I’d been lurking  around her What's Past is Prologue blog for awhile and that she was my inspiration for starting mine in the first place.
I knew about the Carnival of Genealogy from Donna’s blog and was eager to add my own submission now that I have a blog of my own. I needed guidance on how to figure out what next month’s topic was, but I got it figured out eventually. When I did find out this month’s topic, I was stumped, though. It did not immediately lend itself to any creative ideas in my head. I’ve been pondering it for a couple of weeks now.  But after surfing genealogy weblogs in these wee hours of morning before the sun comes up, I found inspiration, ironically on Jasia’s Creative Gene blog, the host of the COG.
What tree best represents my family? When I think of my family, my thoughts go from my immediate family to the many branches I’ve discovered over the years. All these branches seem different, from my father’s southern roots to my mother’s Dutch heritage. What one tree could I say represents all these variations? Should I focus on one particular line? Which one? Nothing resonates.
When I think of the Watts family, I think of tobacco plants since they were tobacco farmers for years and years. Not exactly a tree. Wisteria, the name of my blog, is sort of a tree/vine, but that says more about my feelings of wistfulness and nostalgia than anything about my family. Actually, according to Wikipedia, wisteria is a flowering plant in the pea family. Not really tree material either.
Jasia’s post on her Creative Gene blog from last Sunday, September 18, 2011, talked of the changing seasons and how after great summer weather, she will start to focus on family history as the leaves fall from the trees once again. That’s when it hit me. My family is like a tree in the autumn season. The varied fall colors of each leaf are unique and beautiful just as the different branches of my family tree are unique. As the family historian, I have been the one to gather these falling leaves and remember their beauty.
The fall season itself brings to mind the reflective longing I feel about earlier generations. It also brings back memories. I vividly recall taking a trip to Virginia in October about twenty years ago to stay with my brother-in-law and his family just outside of Washington, D.C. I lived in Florida at the time (where there are only two seasons, scorching hot and bearable). As I approached the Georgia state line, I finally started to feel a touch of fall weather that was missing further south. Once I got to Virginia, I spent the week traveling back and forth to Richmond daily to take advantage of the state archives. There was quite a distance between my brother-in-law’s and the archives but I enjoyed the drive. The autumn view was at its peak and the trees along I-95 were just “gaw-jes” as one of my southern friends would say.
I don’t think I’ve ever spent such a concentrated amount of time on genealogy since. It was a very rewarding experience. The work I did in the Richmond state archives is the bulk of my research and writing on my Watts family.
Fall also reminds me of the last time I spoke with my grandfather. He turned 96 in October of 1995 and I called him on his birthday. I was about six months pregnant with my second child. He talked of how he missed me and my daughter, who was about two then. He mentioned once being sad because he was afraid she wouldn’t remember him.
During our telephone conversation, he complained about the cost of bread (oh, granddaddy, if you could see the prices now!) and asked me, “When’s that baby coming?” “Not until January, Granddaddy.” I said. “I can’t wait that long.” He replied. He had a heart attack the next morning and died shortly thereafter.  
But he hasn’t been forgotten. My job as the family historian is to not only remember past generations, but to remind future generations of where they come from. His baby picture hangs on the wall in the computer room, the photographic family tree hangs on the wall at the foot of the stairs and a plaque I gave my father on the father’s day following Granddaddy’s death is now in my living room (following my father’s own death two years ago). I would venture to say that it will eventually go to my oldest daughter since the plaque holds a photograph of her and Granddaddy taken when she was two.
Seasons come and seasons go. Leaves fade and fall away, but their beauty is not forgotten.
I should have gotten up at 4:00 in the morning sooner…


  1. What a lovely article, Dawn. I could just picture that drive into the state archives in Virginia. Fall color is something to behold and no photographs can to it justice.

    I will admit that I was inspired by the fall colors emerging when I picked the topic for this edition of the COG. I'm glad you decided to join us and I hope we'll see more great articles from you!

  2. Love the name of your blog, this was a terrific entry to the Carnival. Fall is such a beautiful time of the year. I love this:

    "Seasons come and seasons go. Leaves fade and fall away, but their beauty is not forgotten."

  3. Thanks for your nice comments, Jasia & Carol, I'm glad you enjoyed this post. I appreciate the encouragement!

  4. Wisteria has long been a favorite of mine -- and now I look forward to checking out a new Wisteria-- your blog. Nice post.

  5. Amazing visual about the leaves and you gathering them together. Good luck with your blog

  6. I really enjoyed reading your post and your blog, will be following.

  7. Thanks for the support, everyone!