It was a cloudy day, a Saturday, maybe a little cool as in spring because I remember wearing a jacket. I was six, maybe. My dad took me with him in the car; I guess my sister stayed home with Mom. Dad and I stopped at a house on Flanders Street, east of City Airport. It was a pretty nice neighborhood back then, clean and well-kept. The house was on the corner, and we parked on the cross street and went in the side door. I don’t really remember what the people who lived there looked like or even how many there were. My dad went with them into another room to do whatever businesses they needed to do. They left me alone in the dining room. All the lights were off, but it was mid-afternoon so there was plenty of light. In the corner of the dining room was an upright piano. I was fascinated, although there wasn’t much else in the dining room to be fascinated with. I knew I shouldn’t make much noise, but I did quietly press some of the piano keys, and then a few more, not really making music so much as listening to the random notes. Mostly, though, I stood quietly and was a good kid. Then my dad was done, and we left by the side door (down a few stairs) and got back in the car. I think after that we went to a store, and then went home.
At some point, I realized that the house was at the address of a Christmas card my mom would make out every year. I asked Mom who the person was and she said she didn’t really know, and there was nothing further to ask after that. By the time we moved out of Detroit, she stopped sending cards to that address.
One reason I do genealogy is to try to find ancestors as far back in time as is possible. But perhaps the reason that drives me most is an attempt to flesh out stories like this one, to find out who these people were and what they meant to my dad. I have names, and I have hypotheses, and I still don’t really know much. I especially want to know why I couldn’t know what there was to know. I wish information had been more forthcoming years ago, when people were around who knew the details, but that’s a particularly impotent wish now. There may not be many people left who know, even if I got the courage up to ask. It’s just that I’m still curious, that’s all.