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Tending to my family tree

April E. Clark
April in Glenwood
April Clark
Staff Photo |

I’m a big fan of the social media pinboard Pinterest. Mostly because I like to share.

I aced that part of kindergarten.

My penchant for sharing goes back to the days of my favorite classroom activity, Show and Tell. That was probably an early indicator that I liked the stage time and would someday take up stand-up comedy.

I think I killed it with my “What Santa brought me for Christmas” bit.

I seriously doubt I was that funny. I do recall being pretty proud of myself by taking in my great-grandfather Francis McAnany’s WWI book to show my classmates. Being that the war took place nearly 65 years prior, I’m sure they were on the edge of their seats in suspense.

It was the Great War, after all.

On Pinterest, I’ve created many boards showing and telling my favorite things. There are boards on shoes, party ideas, skirts, summer, fall, comedy, hats, burlesque, traveling, words, and more. The Words, Words, Words board is pinned with thoughts keeping me inspired. There’s one from my Indiana literary hero Kurt Vonnegut. “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”

I’m on it, Kurt. I’m on it.

There are witty quips such as the Someecard “One must occasionally get down with one’s self.” And Dorothy Parker’s quote, “I’ve never been a millionaire but I just know I’d be darling at it.”

I’d like to at least give it a try.

My Indiana girl on an Indiana night board, a shout out to my Hoosier heritage and one of my favorite Tom Petty songs, has photos of a fried pork tenderloin sandwich, Peyton Manning when he played for the Colts, and our state bird, the cardinal. I also have an inspirational quote reading, “Never forget where you come from, you may have to go back someday.”

Isn’t that the truth.

I’ve always been proud I grew up as a country girl climbing trees, building forts and playing tag in the cornfields. Even when I lived far away from family, I always made sure to keep my strong connection to my past and life before the mountains. Sometimes people would rather forget theirs. I’m the opposite.

I’ll always be an Indiana girl.

When my grandfather died this year, the past came rushing in like a rapid through the Shoshone section of the Colorado River during spring runoff. We spent days sifting through hundreds of photos for his memorial and online tribute. I was reminded why losing him felt so unfair. The photos showed his smiling face as a dedicated family man. He loved his family. He was always creating memorable Christmas celebrations spent at his house every year of my 41 years. This year will be the first holiday spent without him, as well as my grandmother who died in September. My mother and I have no idea how to even make it through that experience. We do know he wouldn’t want us to miss the fun of opening presents and being together as a family.

So he will be there in spirit.

I feel compelled to keep his memory alive by preserving our family’s past through genealogy. He would want that. He was extremely proud of our history and the connections to Ireland and Germany that are so prominent in our lineage. He kept meticulous care of old photo albums, handwritten letters, and memorabilia that span the world wars and many births and deaths. There’s a letter from him sent to his mother in 1945 when he was on a Navy ship in the South Pacific. It was full of concern for her and his brother and sister. He was an extremely loving guy. He also really liked to use the word swell.

I think that’s pretty swell, myself.

I’ve always been a family history geek, even earning a Girl Scout badge back in my Show and Tell heyday. After Grandpa Bud’s funeral, I signed up online for a 30-day trial for a popular genealogy site. I found census records, birth and death certificates, and obituaries from relatives throughout our family’s history. I didn’t continue the monthly subscription, so my activity on the site has been quiet the last few months.

Until the other day.

I surprisingly received an e-mail from my mom’s first cousin Bob who lives in California. He found me on that genealogy site. He’s been doing tons of legwork on preserving our family tree. He was in town so we went to lunch to geek out over genealogy. Looking through all those family albums has been like traveling through time. I’ve even found out there’s some family connection through my great-great Aunt Venus to a man named Orange Lemon Bish. He was a Civil War veteran and small fruit farmer.

I can’t make this stuff up.

Orange Lemon has inspired me to do even more research, maybe even write about him. He sounds like someone I would like to know better. And his interesting name and story reminds me to never forget where I come from.

I always come back.

— April E. Clark wishes her hometown high school football team, the New Palestine Dragons, good luck in Friday’s semi-state game. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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