My family book project is complete. This afternoon, I sent it on its way ...
It was much harder than I thought it would be. No, not the 'finishing the book' part. The letting it go part.
I have nurtured this little project along for six years. Granted, at least five of those years (okay, five and a half. Or more) were spent dragging my heals. But in reality, the seed that was planted six years ago has been a part of me ever since the idea germinated.
I didn't want this book to be anything like the one I put together for Mom's family. I had too much of my own 'voice' in that little book and I wanted to avoid that at all costs. This wasn't my story. "Keep Out!" is what I kept telling myself.
Then I started inviting others to join the the story telling.
My dad comes from a family of seven boys. Six of them married. There are twenty six 'cousins' on my dad's side. I asked friends and neighbors to join us. There are two pages of acknowledgements. It took 'a village' to create this book. It may have been a whole town.
It was a community effort. The contributors came from everywhere (in fact, I could almost swear that those who no longer walk this earth whispered in my ear).
Because of that community (and perhaps that whispering), I started to let my own voice out. It is everywhere within this book. I do believe it may even be singing in parts.
This book got deep inside of my soul, my life and my thoughts. I lived and breathed this book each and every time I sat down with it. I didn't want to putter through it and just get the job done. I wanted to immerse myself and do the job right.
I consider myself baptised. Something incredible happened within me as the stories started to come together.
Such a big part of what feels wonderful, is simply the sense of belonging within this family. I moved back 'home' twenty six and a half years ago. Six years ago, I started to feel I had arrived.
Six years ago, I had stepped deep into half of my family, after I compiled Mom's family's stories. It was absolutely intoxicating to feel a little piece of myself within each of Mom's sisters and see little bits and pieces of my siblings woven into that same tapestry.
How could it possibly get any better? How in the world could I ever top that experience?
Well, it took a while. I felt this crescendo gaining momentum right from the get-go. I took one step in a forward direction and I knew I was onto something. I took a second step and it was so good that it was almost frightening. I invited myself into so many homes and families and inboxes and mailboxes ... and do you know what? I was welcomed.
The response to collecting these memories has been absolutely overwhelming. It has scared me. These people actually expected me to (eventually) do something with this information. They waited. They waited ever-so-patiently. They kept telling me not to worry about when it got done. They expected nothing.
Well? They shall not be disappointed.
I am quite certain that I could have put all that I have collected into a booklet form, put it in some semblance of order, bound it together and presented it to them and they would have been fine with that. Heck! That is what I did for my family! They were pleased as punch. I could have done that 'times seven' and I know people would have thought 'good enough'! It is more than they had before.
But I went a step further.
I waded up to my shoulders and almost immersed myself in memories, research, pictures, history and questions and answers. I did my very best to encompass 'the whole story', It will be far, far too much for many people. It is TOO much information. But I tried to present it in a fashion so the people who only want to wade knee deep can read a summary and carry onto whatever interests them.
And for those who only want to wade in up to their ankles and read about the dad or grandfather they know the best, those seven chapters just about wrote themselves. I think that each one of those chapters tell the story of the man who is my grandparent's son, in the best fashion that I could come up with. I would be proud to be a daughter or granddaughter or great granddaughter of any one of those men.
I was putting the finishing touches, the final checks and the last read-throughs of the book yesterday and I was getting anxious. I wasn't ready to let it go. I wanted to hold onto it an nurture it and keep it to myself. I wanted to check and edit and rewrite and double check it again.
I promised myself I would focus on the 'seven sons' chapters. I would read them one last time. And then I would set it free.
Setting it free wasn't so easy. It wanted to cling and hold on and it kept crying "I'm not ready yet!", so I brought it back to me, fixed it up and tried again. And again. And again.
I am not certain how many times I saved the book to a PDF file, so I could send it on its way. And I kept finding mistakes. Then different mistakes. Then suddenly the chapter headers went all funky in a few places.
By the time I finally hit the 'Submit' button, it was like shaking gum off my fingers. I couldn't wait to be rid of it.
And it went.
I still have time to revise and fine tune and give it one more good, long look before it gets its wings and flies.
But for now? I have shaken it off and I am enjoying the feeling. For the moment.
Letting go was much harder than I ever thought it would be. But so much easier, when it almost wouldn't leave. It kind of sounds like living with a child whose time to 'leave the nest' has come...