Reclaiming all the past

These thoughts are for all you white family historians out there.  Particularly the ones who are, like me, struggling to tell the unmentionable, the dishonorable chapters of our ancestors’ lives.  The plot lines of which extend into our own days, leaving us uncomfortable with our race.  Our whiteness.

I have been silent on this blog space, for what seems like a long time.  Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because what I have to say is so disconcerting to me.  I have hung out with my research for months, letting it rattle my bones.  Letting the names and the implications of the unnamed disturb my imagination, and disrupt my nostalgia of my southern past.

And humbled I return to this segregated space to confront the taboo against mixing race and family.  The taboo against talking straight up about how I can trace my status, my education, my opportunities right back to those of my Dodson forebears in 1772.

I want to reclaim all the past.  I want to braid stories of the Dodsons with the connections of the Crutes and dozens of unnamed African Americans who contributed to the Dodson legacy, yet seldom profited from it.

I hope you will return to learn how my dad’s scribbled note prompted my memory of something Norman said, which together led to the documentation of the Dodson Crute Connection.

Next up:  The Dodson Crute Connection

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Well…that didn’t work

A few weeks ago I proclaimed that deadlines were my friend.

Every day was a potential deadline. Stories would simply rise to the surface of my consciousness, like well watered seeds sprouting above composted leaves.

Clearly that didn’t work. Deadlines are horrible friends and daily deadlines just lead to dead lines.

Words are stuck in my drafts file. Incapable of stirring my emotions or piquing my curiosity, I refuse to press publish.  My ideas fail to hook MY interest.  Why edit?

Yesterday a line from Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong intensified my self-critiqueing.

I still feel scared and exposed and vulnerable as I prepare to share a new idea with the world. I still flinch a little when I turn to my community and say, ‘I’m trying this, and I would love your support!’ But I try to remind myself that, on the flip side, I love it when someone is genuinely excited about his or her work.  I’ve also learned in all of my rumble that if you don’t put value on your work, no on is going to do that for you.

I stop my writing from growing into a full-ledged wonder story in all sorts of ways.  I don’t value the process, the shitty first draft, or the second and third and fourth shitty drafts.  I don’t want to open myself to an avalanche of negative feedback–which I perversely assume is the natural outcome of my thoughts.  By not using this blog as a drafting, proposing, what-do-you-think platform, I rob myself of potential cousin-clicks and writer/photographer tips.

And if I don’t value my trying then who the hell should?

I don’t know that I will post every single day, but I am willing to try the whole deadline-is-my-friend thing again.  I will risk being exposed and vulnerable, while I rumble with what I see, through my lens and through the leaves of my family’s tree.

Because I am worth it.

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Memory Scraps

James A. Corrigan, spring 1912My “decluttering for the holidays” was stymied today by the discovery of scan-able scraps that directly pertain to my previous post.  And so, as is often the case with my reorganization efforts, I am at the keyboard rather than behind the vacuum.

The photograph of James A. Corrigan was dated in the upper left corner–1912.  During this morning’s work, I found his medical school year book, Jefferson’s The Clinician, among the boxes I was sorting.  Inside the black leather cover were a few scraps of paper.

Dead stop.  Flip Pal out.

James A Corrigan at Jefferson

What a hoot!! No letter of “Congratulations! You have been admitted to the class of 1915!”  Just a notice of matriculation, number 386, confirming that James Corrigan had satisfactorily completed preparatory classes in 1911.  His family certainly counted it as an important document, and carefully preserved the scrap as proof that Jim had been admitted to Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia beginning with the 1911-1912 session.

Another valuable piece of paper was this stationary, remarkable for its header.James A Corrigan at JeffersonBeing asked to serve as President of the school’s pathology society as a second year student (1912-1913) must have been quite an honor.

The scraps add dimension to the image in front of the flowering shrub.  It is  more than a photo of a thirty-something Jim Corrigan.  It is a snapshot of the Hazleton native’s transition from scholar to doctor and community leader.

 

 

 

 

Photo Friday: James Aloysius Corrigan

Aunt “Sissy” Rattigan saved the Treasury Department envelope, “Important: Contains U.S. Savings Bonds” recycled to store important photographs and newspaper clippings.  My husband identified this 1912 candid as his grandfather, James Aloysius Corrigan.

 

James A. Corrigan, spring 1912

After graduating high school, Jim worked as a clerk in a Hazleton (PA) clothing store, and held offices in the Clerk’s Union and St. Gabriel’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus. In his late twenties, Jim attended Bloomsbury State Normal School before following his brothers’ footsteps to Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1911. The thirty-one year old medical student posed for someone’s camera the following summer, nattily dressed in a wool suit, hat in hand.

I wonder what stories floated through that open window.

 

 

 

MyStory: Birding is the only good reason to garden

 

Edited to reflect reality…*

Yesterday I tried to get super close to a bigger-than-a-crow hawk that sat perched on my neighbor’s play set. Tawny,heavy brow, white lores around the very big, very curved beak, yellow legs, brown and tawny back, white chest, several black stripes in the white tipped tail.

It was not a Coopers, and not a Red-tail.

It just rested and looked around, up and down, barely paying me any mind as a skulked closer, with either  camera or binoculars at my eye. The hawk let out a high pitched whistle, which I instantly recognized as that sound that had pulled me outside for the last month.

It let out another whistle as it unfolded its wings and drifted over the treetops. I raced into the house to examine my shots and ID the mystery raptor…only to notice that my card was still in the computer from last  photo edit. Drat!!!  Fortunately, trying to frame a good field ID photo had focused my attention enough on the hawk’s details that I could trip the empty-camera-card-slot-failure into a success.

I got really close to an immature Broad-wing Hawk!!!

And I ran out of time to weed before dinner prep.  *snaps fingers* Shucks…

Just so we are clear…Gardening is merely the prompt to birding in my backyard.  Binoculars, I have found, must accompany the trowel, or at least be a dash distance nearby, or I just procrastinate the dirt work.  Even then, birds trump plants. Like yesterday…

Night temperatures fell past dew point, and this morning’s herb garden was bejeweled in water beads, leaving even weeds pretty.  Yesterday’s chore had to be completed before the cilantro got crowded out by crabgrass and some mystery choker.  Summer contact calls were music to weed by so out I went, binoculars, trowel, weed bucket.  When I could distinctly see sage, oregano, cilantro seedlings, and thyme, I declared gardening done, and strolled around, glasses in hand, just in time to watch a mustached Northern Flicker and his partner send their sharp beaks between blades of dew-soaked grass.  In the distance, an adult male Northern Cardinal fanned his feathers wide, and a pair of Mourning Doves fluttered in to join his hedgerow morning spa.

Gardening is a gateway chore to my passion.  I relax, content.