I have mentioned before that I did not grow up in close proximity to extended family. I was born in Brantford, Ontario (because Paris did not have a maternity ward). My parents endured my surgery and then bolted west for a new life and new opportunities. We would head back east every few years to see the family and a few of them made the trek out our way. In the summer of 1999 I saved up my pennies (I was an articling student) and traveled back to spend two weeks getting to know my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents from the perspective of adult as opposed to little kid just coming along for the ride.

Luckily for me, my Dad is a teller of stories (Huh. Wonder where I got that trait from?). He would regale me with tales of his parents and of his uncles (His Dad’s brothers) and how their family had originated in England and had come to Canada and how one of the uncles had built his life south of the border in Nashville. My grandparents were married right before WWII and the big joke in the family is that my Dad (the eldest of five kids) was born nine months to the day after Grandpa returned from the war. I don’t remember my grandfather at all because he died in a car accident when I was about two. I do know that we flew back for the funeral but the only memory I have of that trip is standing in the entryway of my grandma’s house.

The pieces of my history are pretty hazy and I will sometimes find myself in a quiet moment wondering about all of those people who make up my genetic code and wish I knew a little more about them. Who were they, really? We they funny? Serious? Pranksters? Story tellers? Shy? Outgoing? If I were to meet them now would I see myself reflecting bits of who they are? I’ll never really know because they are no longer on planet Earth.

This past January when we were going through the emotional turmoil of my Dad’s ALS diagnosis and subsequent healing, on one of the posts about him I received a comment from his cousin Wende. My Dad and his wife had given her my URL. I remembered my Dad telling me about this cousin way back when and she and I had emailed back and forth a little bit. Then, last week, she emailed to ask me if I was on Facebook. I added her and she then went through my list to add all of the Morans to her friend list (Moran is my maiden name, if that isn’t abundantly clear).

And then…AND THEN she added a couple of photos to an album called “Days Gone By”.

Here is a photo of my Grandpa Cecil (bottom left) and Wende’s Dad John behind him, in the middle.

I burst into tears because I realized that all of this time, I had no idea what my Grandpa even looked like. I mean, I’m sure my Dad has photos somewhere but I don’t remember them and, wow. The tears kept falling. Good tears.

My sister created a “Moran Clan” Facebook group and used this photo from the last family reunion.

It was in 1983. TWENTY SEVEN YEARS AGO. Us BC folks apparently didn’t make it out but seeing my older siblings (Story here)(It was a mini-reunion) and the rest of the family decked in ’80’s wear brings me a little bit of glee even though we missed the party.

Wende uploaded more photos over the weekend. The one of my Dad’s grandparents made me sit back a little. Wende’s caption:

Grandma and Grandpa Moran in the early 1900’s in England, probably 1910, or 1911. This was their wedding picture!
In this photo: Gertrude Annie (Dear) Moran, John William Moran

OK, HI. I do believe that Graham, Emily and I got our eyes, nose and stocky build from my Great-Grandma. Whoa.

There was a photo of my Grandpa.

Huh. That’s a Moran if I ever saw one.

She posted a photo of the Moran brothers and a couple of friends.

(John, Granville, Leslie, (Unknown friend), Cecil, (Unknown friend))

It was such a different time and gosh, I love that photo.

And then…sigh…she uploaded a photo of my grandparents together.

My Dad’s two sisters (and their daughters) are SPITTING IMAGES of my Grandma. All of my memories of her are from when she was in her seventies – I had never seen her in her youth. Dang, she was pretty.

I’ve spent a lot of time going through these photos and commenting back and forth with family members on them and, yeah. Family ties are strong, regardless of distance. Our culture seems to have brushed aside the Family Reunion in many instances and as someone who has never been to one, that makes me a little sad. I want to go to a reunion – to hug people I’ve never hugged, to see myself and my kids reflected in others around me and yes, to witness family drama. It’s bound to happen but, hey. It can’t be all sunshine and rainbows and ponies.

I’ve spent a good chunk of my life not only physically removed from extended family, but emotionally removed for a number of reasons. This weekend showed me that I want it to be different – not only for me but for my kids. I want them to have the experiences that I didn’t have. I guess that’s what being a parent is all about.

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  1. Hannah May 31, 2010 12:35 am edit

    It is such a treasure to find old photos … I cried when I found my Grandad’s letters and diaries, as like photos, they do transport you back in time. And it’s so emotional to see/read your history. Man, I totally saw Emily when I looked at that photo of your Great-Grandma! Genes are amazing things, huh?!

  2. Jen Wilson May 31, 2010 6:51 am edit

    Silly girl, 1983 was TWENTY seven years ago. I know. I was born that year. :)

    Okay, WOW. That photo of your great-grandma. The first thing I thought was, HEY! THERE’S EMILY! There are definitely some strong genes in your family!

    I think I took advantage of living among many MANY relatives. It’s weird how you can be so distant from them (emotionally) even though you’re so close to them geographically.

    I completely agree about the giving our children experiences we never had. And your children will have many MANY photos of themselves while they’re doing it. :)

    Awesome post.
    .-= Jen Wilson´s last blog ..the circus is in town! =-.

  3. Laura Radniecki May 31, 2010 7:28 am edit

    Wow – before I even read the caption where you said Graham, Emily and you all look like your Great-Grandma, I thought – “Woah, that looks like Emily!” Isn’t that amazing how it can span across generations like that?!

    I have been realizing the amazingness of family lately too. I’ve always been relatively close to my immediate family, but as the youngest cousins on my dad’s side of the time, when you’re growing up with cousins 10+ years older than you, you don’t really socialize as much. Why would a 20 year old want to play with an 8 year old, kind of thing. But now that we’re all in our 20’s, 30’s or 40’s, it’s so wonderful to rekindle relationships, get to know each other on more of a friend level, and just relish in how precious family time is.

    Have a blessed day today!
    .-= Laura Radniecki´s last blog ..20 Questions =-.

  4. Elizabeth May 31, 2010 8:21 am edit

    So valuable to get connected like that. I love it!
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Handwriting =-.

  5. Kami's Khlopchyk May 31, 2010 8:24 am edit

    Here is something magical about knowing our roots! I think you look more like your Grandma than Great-Grandma – she is tall and slender just like you! But the eyes of your Great-Grandma – FOR SURE. Isn’t that just the neatest thing? ;)
    .-= Kami’s Khlopchyk´s last blog ..Tooth Attachment =-.

  6. Carrie May 31, 2010 9:46 am edit

    I happen to think you look an awful lot like your aunts. :-)

    Grandma was pretty, wished she had red hair, hated her freckles, loved the Lord and her Queen, was the only person in the family for years that went to college. What else can I tell you?

    Grandpa spoiled me rotten, I’m the last one to remember him. He painted my bedroom bubblegum pink when I was about 5 and he tinted his paints himself. I have his step ladder.

    I absolutely love Wende’s pictures too.

  7. Meg May 31, 2010 10:59 am edit

    My brothers and our 6 cousins on my mom’s side and I all have the same eyes and nose, except where one cousin has green irises instead of brown. But the shape, freckles, dark lashes, VERY similar nose-my mom always tells us we’ll always be recognized as family!
    .-= Meg´s last blog ..After-hair =-.

  8. Hilda May 31, 2010 11:40 am edit

    I’ve always known quite a bit about my side of the family but never my husbands until my inlaws created a photo book for my husbands grandpa who is losing his memory. It was sooo cool to read the whole history of the family along with pictures and stories!
    .-= Hilda´s last blog ..Buttercup Bags =-.

  9. hillary May 31, 2010 12:17 pm edit

    Dude, I love this post.
    Also? After seeing the photo of your grandpa (the nose!), I am convinced that you and Shawn are related somewhere down the line.
    .-= hillary´s last blog ..Next Time You Point A Finger I’ll Point You To The Mirror =-.

  10. Kristabella June 1, 2010 8:40 am edit

    See, Facebook isn’t all bad!

    How great to get to see those photos!
    .-= Kristabella´s last blog ..Every Weekend Should Be A Three-Day Weekend =-.

  11. monstergirlee June 1, 2010 1:46 pm edit

    What awesome photos! Such a treat to find those.

    I grew up ensconced in Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and cousins everywhere I looked. Loved it, seemed rather normal to me.
    Sadly other than my sister 35 mines away, our nearest relative is 800 miles away, so my kids won’t grow up with that sense of family that I had. I never thought about using facebook to connect with relatives. hmm…
    .-= monstergirlee´s last blog ..You Capture – Sky =-.

  12. Erika June 3, 2010 7:37 am edit

    Wow! Yes, the nose, it has been passed down. :)

  13. Amy June 3, 2010 6:48 pm edit

    So valuable to get connected like that. I love it!
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Handwriting =-.

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