I’ve spent most of yesterday catching up on emails, cleaning up my office writing area and actually working on a manuscript. I’m working on a piece that is a little different from the picture books I generally write. This one is historical and biographical. Writing about a person’s life is harder than I thought when I began. But once I’m into something, it’s hard for me to drop it. And why would I drop this one? This character has become my friend. I refer to him as my 300-year-old friend. I have questions for him that I ask out loud as if he is going to answer me…Sometimes he does.
I’m not going to share his name but I will share his initials – JH. Don’t bother trying to guess, even if you are right, I won’t tell. JH has intrigued me for nearly 20 years and I am astonished that it has taken me so long to think about writing his story. I like doing research and there is plenty of that going on with JH. The unfortunate thing is there are so many gaps in his history every fact I find brings questions to mind and those may not have any sources for facts. On the upside, there is a lot of documentation to sift through. I know there will be a time to stop researching and finish writing so I have a goal for JH. I’ve grown a great appreciation for accurate documentation recently. The gaps with JH and the gaps in my own personal family history are not identical but they are very similar. That is part of the conversation of many African-Americans in the United States today. Thanks to DNA we can use the information learned from a DNA genetic test to trace back, although not very far, through our heritage. Using the DNA and shared family stories we can get very close to the past.
Many of our ancestors kept family history going through storytelling. Today, family reunions across the country uphold that practice very naturally and all we have to do is listen and soak it all in.
Traditions and family keep us together. The simple traditions will sustain and guide us if we listen. We need to tune down the outside noises and raise the volume on our families. I have.