Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.
Monday, July 5, 2010
A Night's Journey in Search of Ancestors. Why I do What I'm Doing.
From the Fortress of Solitude
I'm glad you've come along. Tonight, in our virtual quest for family, we journey back in time to search for our Mattson ancestors in Sweden. It is the mid 1800's. Our journey has taken us through field and forest in search of a great great grandparent. We travel on a sleigh forged from imagination. The snow cracks loudly beneath us as we pass through the frigid Scandinavian night air.
Wool blankets and coal warmers shield us from the worst of the mid winter cold. The horse's breath makes white clouds. He breathes heavily as our driver urges him onward, deeper into the forest in search of our family, nearly forgotten by time.
The stars are good companions, peering down through curtains of green light swaying in an unseen celestial wind. I glance at my watch. It is 4:00 P.M. yet completely dark. The shy Swedish sun peers briefly over the horizon during winter's months, then disappears, leaving us to our own good company.
We forge ahead.
Through the ancient pines I see the lamp lights of a small cottage. The horse knows the way and turns instinctively. My nose is quick to discern the smoke from a warm fire. Perhaps tonight we find the people who, until now, have been remembered as names written on the frail pages of a an old family bible.
If not, we will continue. The night is still young and our blankets warm.
The notes of a piano accent the sound of the sleigh. We have arrived. I recognize the melody, an old Lutheran hymn. Shall we knock and introduce ourselves?
I remove my mitten and knock on the wooden door. The singing stops. A bolt is undone and the door opens to a family sitting around a fire looking curiously to see what the night has brought.
I clear my voice and speak, hoping my poor Swedish will carry my intent, "God kväll. Är du, av en slump, det Mattson familjen?"
"Ya," comes the curious reply. I feel a burden released. I've found them. The search was long and never easy, but to see them for the first time, together, has rewarded my purpose and intent.
This is why I search, to meet the people who made 'us' possible. I want to tell you their stories.