Connecting with the past is something that’s intrigued me since I can remember. The idea of tangible objects being held by another person, in another time is overwhelmingly fascinating to me. I used to think it was only the ancestry aspect, because I find so much joy in genealogy. But it’s more than that. For an old soul, being among old items, with or without a direct connection, allows the mind to wander and dream.
Not every old item leads me to a faraway daydream. I don’t find old paint cans mesmerizing but as I stood two feet from Van Gogh’s Postman the other night, I envisioned him standing just in front of me. I could almost see his left arm poised in mid air while he determined the next vibrant stroke to complete the subject’s whiskers. I saw his right hand balancing his color palette, with an assortment of golds and blues. Depressed or not, some objects carry the mysticism of their owner or creator.
The world of timing is an interesting topic as well. Just last week I obtained my grandfather’s military record information, so I could finally request his WWII service records. He was a man who didn’t talk much about his experience in the Army, through D-Day or as a POW in Germany; from what I’ve heard. My dad, as the little brother and as unselfish as they come, has next to nothing of his parents. When I stopped by his house yesterday, he said he came across a metal bracelet that was his father’s in a little box he had from when he was a boy.
“It’s got my dad’s name on it and there’s a number underneath and I don’t know what it means”, he said. I quickly referenced my genealogy notebook, that I carry everywhere these days, and found that the engraved number matched the military ID I had just found days before.
He said he wanted me to have it. I have a military themed room in my house and he hoped I could put it in a shadow box, where it would be admired. It’s well-worn and has witnessed what I feel are impossible struggles, as much as inanimate objects can. It hung on a man that dwindled down to ninety pounds, after consuming just potatoes and water for a year.
Being that I wasn’t going directly home, I decided to wear it so it wouldn’t get lost in my Mary Poppins-like satchel, and I felt such a connection to a man I never met. As silly as it sounds, I felt so sentimental, and I felt like I knew him in some sort of way. I’m realistic enough to know that this bracelet hasn’t literally transferred the old soul to my presence. I’m not crazy, I know it’s an old sterling silver bracelet, but it was the closest I’d ever been to a grandfather I never got to meet and always longed to, even if he wasn’t a great father. I like to think I understood what he was because of how life was for him. But I guess I’ll never know for sure.
Some may say I live in the past, but it’s not my past I’m reliving. I’m simply giving life to those who came before me and who often become forgotten. I’m a dreaming genealogist, I suppose.