All the young girls love Alice.
Old men too.
Even old men named Alice.
Last night I went down a rabbit hole, a genealogical rabbit hole. I know friends who have researched their history and families and genealogy, and I have always had a vague interest in learning more about my family.
My family, my direct family, i.e. Mother, Father, siblings, always seemed to NOT want to know about family. We rarely discussed relatives, except to hear my parents speak of brother or sisters who they did not get along with, or infrequent remembrances of their upbringing, stories about my grandparents, cousins. It’s not that we didn’t talk about them, we just didn’t really talk about them much.
As a child I was not allowed to go to funerals, as funerals were not for children, so said my Mother.
She would sometimes speak of her father, who died four years before I was born. He was a customs agent, which was handy as they lived close to the US - Canada border in White Rock. Years later, I would move to White Rock with my wife and daughter, living in my wife’s father’s white house, buying half the house from his ex-wife, and taking care of my father-in-law who was dying of cancer.
When my Mother was a child, the Peace Arch was built, with the names of the school children in White Rock and Blaine inscribed inside the arch. My Mother’s name is in there. I have always wanted to stop and see this, but in my 64 years, so far I have yet to stop and actually get out of the car.
Her father had been in the War, First World War I assume, and he lost an eye, so he had a wooden eye, which he would sometimes take out at the dinner table to charm or scare the children. These are the stories I grew up with.
My Nana Pete, who’s real name was Helena, why they called her Pete I am not sure, lived with us for a time. She was a tall and regal woman, not unlike the Queen, I imagined. Before she came to live with us, we would visit her in her apartment in New Westminster, in the Royal Towers. She would serve us canned strawberries on cottage cheese, and crab or shrimp sandwiches on white bread, and would bring out from her freezer her lemon loaf, which had the densest crumb, and a sweet lemony glaze.
I was speaking with my second oldest brother the other day, and his wife came on the phone, and she asked a few questions about our family, as she had been doing research into her family.
When my parents were alive, they gave each of their children a photo album, which had a family tree.
This was the first real acknowledgement of our genealogy. There are names but not so many dates, but probably enough to begin a search, if one was so inclined. My sister- in- law was curious why the tree was a bare as it was of details.
I said, did you know our grandfather on my Dad’s side had a a first wife, before our Grandma Bea? She died about a year after they were married, around the time of the Spanish Flu. This comment raised more questions about my Grandpa Russ, and his life and brothers and sisters, how his parents died when he was a teenager, and he had to work to support his family as a teenager. I remember stories of him being called up in the army, and asked to fire upon striking workers, and he refused as one of the striking workers was his brother, and how he was then kicked out of the army. Since my father was born on Vancouver Island, my assumption is that this incident was probably the Cumberland strike.
So here I was on Sunday night, just before I went to bed, looking up my grandparents on the internet.
I found my Grandpa Russ and his headstone, along with my Grandma Bea. I found my Grandfather Joseph, and my Nana and noted he was buried in Victoria. Most of these accounts did not mention my own parents, just the grandparents.
And here is the rabbit hole part…my great-grandparents including my Great grandfather Joseph, same name as his son.
I have deleted last names here.
A rabbit hole is defined as a metaphor for something that transports someone into a wonderfully (or troublingly) surreal state or situation.
As a metaphor for our online behavior, the rabbit hole has an advantage those other fictional portals lack: it conveys a sense of time spent in transit. In the original story, Alice falls for quite a while — long enough to scout out the environment, grab some food off a passing shelf, speculate erroneously about other parts of the world, drift into a reverie about cats, and nearly fall asleep. Sounds like us on the Internet, all right. In the current use of “rabbit hole,” we are no longer necessarily bound for a wonderland. We’re just in a long attentional free fall, with no clear destination and all manner of strange things flashing past.
the New Yorker