This week I've unearthed a lot of dirt. Not literal dirt of course; the metaphorical stuff that lurks behind closet doors and under floorboards. The kind that has Forensic Anthropologists' all excited because what's in that dirt has just uncovered a hundred years' old mystery. I've also watched far too much of the TV series, Bones.
Rifling through boxes of books from my Grandmother's house, I was arranging them into three piles: Oxfam. Recycling. My Bookcase. I snatched up the complete works of Oscar Wilde, binding ornate with gold stitching, insides doused with the scent of a thousand libraries. I begrudgingly threw Rudyard Kipling into the recycling; his pages too tattered for eyes, too worn for hands. Oxfam is now the proud owner of thirty books on Marxism. (Nan, what were you thinking?!)
Mission accomplished, I returned the books to their new homes. Placing Oscar Wilde lovingly on my bookcase, a photograph fluttered to the floor from inside; hidden between Dorian Gray and some Woman of No Importance. I studied it; black and white, edges frayed, yellowed. A man I did not know.
Impatient for more I poured the books into one frenzied pile, organisation be damned. Fingers, eyes scoured every page and book. But there were no more hidden photographs. No more dirt unearthed.
Now I spend time hunting relatives, delving into the unknown depths of my family tree in search of the man I did not know. It's like I've been given a key that unlocks the door to my family history and yet I have no idea where that door is. I have a single jigsaw piece and the rest of the puzzle lurks in some muddy boot-fair with the rest of the unwanted crap. Only I want it. I really do.
The importance of knowing where you come from is as fundamental as knowing who you are. They are not one and the same. You could know that you're courageous and determined and yet not know where that courage comes from. Sometimes, certain traits that we value so highly really are passed along that family tree, branch to branch. Sometimes it's nice to know you're not the only one out there, sitting on a limb.
Reader, I know who I am. But the man I did not know; he's going to tell me where I'm from. And I cannot wait to find out...