I have a passion for family folklore. It started as a child staying with my grandparents on a Friday night. I would watch my Granddad Andy going through his ritual, shining his shoes until they shone and tidying his hair until it sat perfectly. Then finally, he would adjust his tie in the mirror before Ronnie or Sid came to pick him for their night at Dunniker Golf Club where they would play dominos and drink lager until the wee hours of the morning.
When he left my Nana would make my supper of toast and hot chocolate as we settled down to watch Dynasty. Then would tell me of her own family at “The Toll House.” How as the only granddaughter of the youngest daughter she was fussed over by her three bachelor Uncles. How her Granny made the best scones with fresh jam made from strawberries grown in the garden that surrounded the cottage. Nine years old, sitting in my pyjamas, I would listen enthralled as she spoke of family long gone with the same love and affection as though they were in the room with us. Having lost my Granddad Andy four years ago and my Nana, very recently, these memories give a comfort I cherish.
For me, that’s what family folklore is all about. It’s the stories that bring the people no longer with us alive. The numbers and dates do nothing for me. Instead it only leaves me yearning for more. What were the quirks of their personality? What made them laugh? Who did they love? The stories passed down from grandmother to granddaughter that makes these relative strangers; your kin, feel like people you’ve known your whole life.
My interest has recently shifted from folklore to genealogy. My next faerie tale has led me back to my past. Back to the roots of my foundations and I was surprised to realise that beyond my grandparents I know very little about the clans I come from. Lately, my visits to my Gran and Granddad Pete have taken on an element of storytelling. Where they delight in giving me stories from the past I can turn into tales. On a recent visit, my Gran announced she had a video of footage my Granddad Pete taken with his first camcorder in 1995. Watching the footage and hiding behind my hands, I was transported back to being 18 years old enjoying my graduation party, dancing with my family and friends in my parent’s living room. Then the footage slowly panned off to the left and for ten all too brief seconds I saw my Granddad Andy, who would have been 93 years old this week, look into the camera. In those brief precious moments I was in the room with him again. We looked at each other through the veil of space and time and I started to cry. In the four years since he passed away, I’d forgotten how I felt when I looked at him. How his lovely gentle eyes would crinkle in the corners. How his soft smile would cradle me in a way I’ve never felt since then. How he affectionately called me “cuddles” every time he saw me. I cried as I remember something I never should never have forgotten. I was loved.
So, if I could leave you with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; find your story. Celebrate your past and remember where you came from and how loved you are. This weekend I'm indulging in another adventure to Glasgow to find out more at the ‘Who Do You Think You are? Live exhibition. But I’m not going alone. I’m taking my Gran’s Great Grandmother, Marion West Haxton, with me and I’m going to find all about her story. For her story is also mine. I am my family and who knows, perhaps when I’m there, my very own story will start too….