I come from a very small family. After my father died in 1967, it was my mother, my older sister, and me. My mother died in 1991. My sister lives hundreds of miles away.
I quickly realized that I didn’t much like the feeling of being “untethered” from the mooring of a family. My husband has a wonderful, rather large family, but I wanted ties to folks who knew something about the people who had populated my early years, folks who could help me remember my parents and others of their generation and who could perhaps help me understand a little more about myself.
So over the last three decades I have made concerted efforts to reach out to my many cousins, to invite them to my home, and to get to know them better. They are all older than I am, so I felt a bit like the annoying kid sister trying to wheedle my way into their orbits. Much to my relief, they have been largely tolerant of my whims, and I am immensely grateful for their ongoing support.
My cousins are all fascinating people. Every last one of them. They intrigue me. They surprise me. There’s so much more I want to know about each of them.
One of the unexpected benefits of publishing The Last Resort has been the opportunities it has created for me to connect with my extended family. While preparing the manuscript, I relied on them for information and family history. I had no choice but to call and ask them questions. In the process, I hoped to drum up their interest in the project so they would look forward to reading the book.
What I didn’t predict was how the published book would open up conversations about family. I have heard stories that no one had thought to share before. I have discovered how many of my cousins had spent time at my dad’s camp on Salt River. I have spent hours traveling by car with two of my more intrepid cousins. Although the trips were long, the conversations we had were worth every moment of sedentary discomfort.
Last weekend, the three of us visited two cousins in the Atlanta area: John Allen Moore, one of the original band of boys who joined Pud and Bobby Cole at The Last Resort in the early 1940s, and his younger brother, Joe Moore. We had seen them both two years ago as I was beginning work on this project, looking to them for information. This time I thoroughly enjoyed learning what footnote or story or photo in the book had piqued their interest. I eagerly anticipate continuing the conversations about family and mid-century life in Lawrenceburg and World War II.
When you start a project like this, you think you can see where it will take you. You imagine holding the finished product in your hands. What you can’t fully anticipate are the unexpected personal connections and the emotions of the journey. Their breadth and depth have astonished me. And I might have missed it all if I hadn’t had the courage to reveal a family story and a family who would embrace it.