November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. Last year I used it to finish the rough draft of the novel I have been working on. I am still muddling my way through edits and rewrites, mostly because it is a daunting task and I have a tendency to put it off.
This year I am shooting for a somewhat easier project. I am going to write the tale of one my early ancestors and his journey to America.
Losing everything he owned in the Great Fire of London, John Perry had few options left to him. He could return with his father to the ashes of the city and try to salvage the scorched fragments of his life and rebuild, or he could turn his back on the past and look to the colonies across the ocean for a new start. The black smoke hovering over the once great city merged with the gray clouds. The steady rain had finally turned the tide of destruction and conquered the flames. The smell of ash and charred wood clogged his every breath. Nothing remained of his life, his dreams. No, there was nothing left for him here. The colonies of the New World held the promise of hope and forgetfulness.
John Perry (the Younger) joined his parents, John Perry (the Elder) and Johannah Holland Perry on the trip to Watertown, Mass in 1667. There he married Sarah Clary within the same year. I can find information about births, deaths and marriages, but little else so many years later. I know bits and pieces and some stories that have come down through the family. My people were there during the French and Indian war, the Revolutionary War, Civil War and other important times in our country’s history. They were farmers, teachers and preachers. Simple people who grew up, loved, laughed and sorrowed just like we do today. They lived the history we learn about in books.
Their blood flows through my veins. It is enough for me to want to know them. Are they like the living, breathing family that I know and love? What parts of them have been passed down to me and my children?
Years ago, before I had any idea of being a writer, my Grandpa Perry and I sat together on the couch gazing out the window. He was telling me stories of his parents, aunts and uncles, their travels and their coming home. At fifteen I was keen to know who I was, where I had come from. As we talked about the ones who had gone, he said to me.
You should write a story about our family.
At the time, I eagerly agreed. I loved my family, I was fascinated by our history. I neglected to mention to him that I hated to write.
Years later he passed away, lost in the fog of Alzheimer’s syndrome. I was 1500 miles away and unable to get home. My biggest regret was that I never got to say good bye, second to that was that I had never fulfilled that request.
Still I waited. Now he has been gone more than ten years. I have been thinking about it more and more and have come to a conclusion. It is time to grant that simple wish.
NaNoWriMo is coming.
Are you ready?