- Written by: Roberta Rivett
This is the title of a recent book by Johathan Haidt, one which I keep dipping into. A recent dip into his pellucid words revealed the following: Achieving a goal does not necessarily bring happiness. Rather it can bring restlessness, a feeling of "So what?" and a feeling of "What's next?" (I paraphrase, of course.)
Objective assessment of my recent family history efforts would suggest I have been productive, having finished (in my special sense of "finished" ) four books of family history since April. Yesterday we mailed off the last of the fourth book, the one about my great-grandfather. (Incidentally the postage was an owie. When it comes to mailing the product, this is NOT an inexpensive hobby. Nor is it when my workhorse of a printer approaches the end of its useful life and has to be replaced.)
So did I feel happy, that the HTW book was finally done? Maybe, for moment. Mostly it was "What's next."
There are two projects moving to the front of the stove, from a simmer toward a full boil. One is Derry's book. Derry - my niece Deirdre who died in 1991 of breast cancer at the age of 25, will have a book of pictures with extensive captions. We have been collecting pictures of her for several years and the time has come to say STOP collecting and start assembling. The other project coming to a boil is a book about David's maternal grandfather, about whom so little is known that it will be a very small book indeed.
For Derry's book I will need to learn some new things - or perhaps David will - like how to put captions on the same page as pictures.
For David's grandfather's book, I will need, among other things, to pay a visit to a military museum.
Pause here to reflect on bureaucracy. There is in Victoria a military museum, at one end and side of a vast gymnasium-like space which I fancy is used for drill on wet days, and for public events. It has a name, this facility, and the name can be found online although not in the phone book. A few years ago I had cause to track down its resources in the cause of identifying a small spoon with a military crest on it - a memento of an aunt on my father's side - so I know it exists and that the elderly warriors who volunteer in the museum are knowledgeable and kindly. It is clear from my efforts so far that the Ashton Armoury does not want to be contacted, and indeed I recall this from my past visit. All I want to know is when it is open to the public so that I may not waste a trip there. I have been engaged in finding my way through a labyrinth of voice mail and outdated messages. Frustration reigns.
I have in my possession a photocopy of the army paybook of David's grandfather, from World War I. It is rife with incomprehensible abbreviations and references to matters unknown. I had thought that its mysteries might be apparent to another mind than mine, and asked my daughter Allegra who visited us the past weekend to try and interpret. But she too was baffled. It was she who suggested the military museum.
My point here is that in the course of preparing a book, there are MANY side paths which need to be taken, and while each may lead to great and interesting enlightenment, they all take time, and that is why some of my projects have taken YEARS to come to fruition, and maybe it also serves to explain my "What's next" response to the supposed achievement of finishing a project.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Jeffrey, our revered webmeister, has asked about the possibility of making the blog part of the site available to others than registered Niebuhr descendants. I have to give this some thought. I write the text of the blog, and need to consider whether knowing its going out into the wide world rather than only to Niebuhr descendants would alter what I write or the way I write it. I'll take a few days to ponder this.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Life goes along in a number of threads. In the latter decades of life, I observe that the the threads have a way of weaving themselves together and instead of threads, there is a rope. This happened to me in retirement. Except for desultory work on assembling my father's writings, everything in my present life was woven from loose threads of mild interest, a general sense that family history was A GOOD THING, and the awareness that I had a very large extended family.
Now fifteen years into retirement, my waking hours are almost entirely given to matters rerlating to FAMILY. Family is the rope.
Why then did I start on a book the subject of which had nothing to do with MY family? I was asked by a fellow resident of my mother-in-law's to tell her story. Failing sight and hearing, and lack of skill writing English, meant that her story had to be told, not written, and despite the pressure of my own family projects, I undertook Lisa's story as an "...as told to.... I anticipate completing it in a few days. I must, in fact, because Lisa is leaving The Cedars at the end of October to move to Edmonton to be nearer her children and grandchildren.
Initially I turned down Lisa's request., but her story kept calling to me. The decade of her twenties was spent as a refugee in Europe, washed back and forth by the tides of war. There were many parallels with the experience of the Mennonites who stayed in South Russia rather than emigrating. Lisa's story had to be told, and clearly I was able to help her do that. It's not a long book, perhaps 40 pages with illustrations, but she is satisfied it has captured what she wanted her children and grandchildren to know.
I undertook this book because although Lisa's family is not my family, it IS the story of a family.
Writing this I realize, given my own family projects, how irrational this is as a reason to expend effort! But there it is.