Cortland New York was transformed into Evergreen Alabama for 2 days last week. Aunt Cissy brought so many pictures, family artifacts and stories that she had me saying “ya’ll” like a pro way before lunch time!
But to me, the visit was far more than pictures and documents, all of which are in themselves treasures seeking a caretaker. So much is lost when their value is not recognized. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” is an adage that comes to mind to underscore an important lesson. Their value increases exponentially when a family member who knows or knew the people in the photos, or the story behind the events perhaps because they were there at the time, or are able to pass along the story of family treasures left for subsequent generations can put “meat on the bones,” so to speak.
So what is there beyond the tangible? Let’s begin with the stitching together of bits and pieces of stories overheard in childhood when the background of those stories are met with “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!” Really? The reality is what you don’t know might drive you crazy! Or it may lead you to assumptions that are so far beyond the truth, a very warped picture of your own family emerges. What’s the real story behind the story?
For some, this family culture in which my sister and I grew up may be hard to imagine. We were denied access to a rich part of our family’s story, its history, its traditions, the real people who comprised where we came from. As a child, the things of children are enough to fill the days. But as we grew and matured, questions inevitably crept into our minds. Why did he or she do this or that? Why did they, collectively, act the way they did good or bad?
I would have to say that it is impossible to put it all together. It’s far too late to experience the past and be an active part of it. Compare it to reading about the Revolutionary War. It happened, we know that as a fact. But what was it like? What was the culture at the time? Who were the people involved and what were they like? All we can do is listen to the stories and try to be a part of it.
Now I’m learning about the lives of the characters I had only heard about, or more specifically “overheard” about if there is such a term.
I should point out that I’ve met with other members of my father’s long lost family. I’ve written about Aunt Sarah earlier. She had been my first contact and the source of nearly everything else I wanted to know. Or rather, everything else I didn’t know I wanted to know until I accidently found her. From there, I met another Sissy. Mary Elizabeth Robison Derr is a cousin, the daughter of Herbert “Uncle Hub” Robison my grandfather’s brother. Uncle Hub was a businessman in Evergreen Alabama and was once its Mayor. She was tremendously helpful with family stories about life in Evergreen where my father lived off and on before he enlisted in the US Navy.
The 2003 Robinson/Robison Family Reunion was quite an event. About 300 or so members of my extended family attended. It was held near Elkmont, Limestone County, Alabama. It took me quite some time to sort out who everyone was and how we were all connected. After all, my 4th great grandfather, Hezekiah, had 12 children, 11 boys and 1 girl. At least 10 survived to adulthood and 9 of whom married and had families of their own. The long and the short of it is this: After nearly 16 years of researching both maternal and paternal ancestors, and with the help of Aunt Sarah, Sissy Derr, David Sanders (a second cousin who started all of this!), Tom Moore, and many others, I’ve managed to put together basic genealogical data on 978 descendants of my paternal great grandfather, Hezekiah, with details on roughly half of those.
The latest treasure trove has come from someone who was closer to my father than anyone I’ve ever met, Cissy Robison Hunter. I’d tell you her birth name but she would not appreciate it! Your welcome Aunt Cissy!
Finally, my sister and I do not have words to thank all of the family members who have contributed to the story of us. But most especially, Aunt Cissy who came north to visit, hug, discuss, share and enrich our lives that much more.