We moved a few times while I was growing up: Durham, NC to Lenoir, NC to Pulaski, VA to Greensburg, IN to Kennebunk, ME to Charlottesville, VA. Durham was always home base. Durham was where both sets of grandparents lived, where my great grandmother lived, where my great uncle Sonny lived, where my great-great uncles Norman, Erskin and Clyde lived. Durham was where we all returned to either in the summer or Christmas or both. My uncles and aunts and cousin would be there. Durham was loud and cozy, full of energy and love.
Durham was home.
In 1976, my great great uncles Norman and Clyde died. In 1977, my great-grandmother died. In 1978, my grandfather Buck died. Durham was full of holes.
But my great aunt Mimi gave me a gift. She gave me a copy of the family tree that she and her mother had worked on. Well, mostly her mother. She told me a story about how her great-grandmother Susie had met and fallen in love with a dashing young man name Henry. She pointed to other names and explained they had donated land so that the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill would have a place to be built.
For the past 37 years, I have added hundreds of names to the family tree. But the names and dates have more meaning when stories can be added. Family history may seem pointless to many, but knowing something about all those who came before me and what they did and how they affected their community is priceless.