Just outside of Laramie, Wyoming, is a tiny hamlet called Tie Siding. A general store which doubles as a post office with a big shed selling fireworks, is all there is on the side of the road. Miss it in a blink.
A friend who is now a big guy of a big city, spent the early years of his life on a ranch down a dirt road from here, amid the rolling grassland with snow fences over the gradual rises, that helped keep the roads passable in winter.
It’s a fascinating to come into contact with the history of another, especially one so unexpected.
We’ve been on our way to South Dakota chasing the memory of an ancestor of Flemming‘s. Personal history has been a motif through this journey so far. Looking for information on Flemming’s family’s history through the generations, has brought us into contact with the history of so many others, and has also formed an unexpected picture of one small facet of this glorious country’s past. There are so many threads that tie us all together.
I know nothing of my own family’s history, except that four generations of us, from both Indian and Chinese sides, have always left our lands of birth to look for better lives for ourselves and our families. There are no records of our paths of flight aside from where each generation eventually settled – India/China -> around Malaya -> Singapore: USA / Malaysia /Australia / the world. Poverty, the lack of resources and education have inevitably contributed to this, but also a lack of appreciation for the significance of documenting daily minutiae and observations of life to following generations, as well as an inevitable underlying vibe of shame for not being as successful as everyone else (goddamn Asian face upholding, grrr). Life was very hard for my ancestors, and even my parents – food on the table was a constant struggle, as was adequate clothing and other basic provisions. My father often said before recounting some naughty tale of his boyhood: “We were shit poor.” It is not hard to imagine the reluctance of diverting available resources to relative luxuries like journal keeping or prolific letter writing.
I think this is a big part of why I have journalled rabidly since early childhood. Aside from it being a very easy thing to fall into for a born wool gatherer, I do it because I can afford to. Because I have to talk to myself about my day to get any meaning from it. Because I enjoy it, and have the luxury of processing my life in these long moments of reflection. It has a practical purpose in these days of my vagabond life: It helps me keep track of time and place as I lose both very easily, moving around so much.
This is what my diasporic ancestors have given me, with their inter-generational search for a home to call their own. And if some day, a descendant of a niece or nephew finds a useful nugget of information on life as I’ve seen it, then all my private wool gathering would not have been without purpose.