It’s back to work for me, with new students to orient, grants to review, papers to write, seminars to deliver–in short, back to what I enjoy doing. But “back from what?”
My family and I have been living in Omaha, Nebraska, smack in the geographical center of the US for the last 9 years-and we all agree that we’re happy living here. But I wasn’t always so happy living in the geographical center of a country.
I passed my childhood in the tundra of Winnipeg, Canada, a city for which I have preciously few fond memories. And many of those are recent ones from the visit we just undertook–the first one in 8 years.
Being the rather unhappy place where I resided between the ages of 3-18, with a year in the middle (15-16) when I was in Israel, I have been avoiding returns to the city despite the fact that I still have a lot of family, close and more distant, living in this intimidating climate. So close family have come often to visit us in Omaha, rather than the other way around.
Well, it was time for a visit. We got in our Toyota Prius and were amazed to find that it can get almost to Winnipeg from Omaha on a single 10-gallon tank of gas. In fact, we found that following an 18-wheeler semi-trailer for several hours on the road boosted our miles per gallon to an amazing 84 MPG. Awesome science lesson in wind friction and its effects.
In any case, on route we stopped overnight in the town of Fargo, North Dakota, famous for the film by the same name. I should mention that 8 years ago, on a similar trip, I had called my father in Winnipeg from Fargo and of course kidded him with my usual, “Oh no, we forgot the passports, guess we’ll have to go back.” Of course the joke was on me: I actually DID forget them at home–I realized it as I was rambling through my practical joke. Despite a 4th of July holiday weekend, friends of ours in Omaha were able to locate the passports at midnight and ship them to us in Fargo via FedEX, thus saving the day. Was that an unconscious desire of mine not to get to Winnipeg?
This time I did not forget the passports, and the visit was nice–and 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than Omaha’s triple digits. I met my nieces and nephews that I had not seen in many years, we had a nice visit to the town of Wasagaming in Riding Mountain National Park,
and we visited the remarkable building site of the up and coming Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
One of the things that occurred on this visit was my 10 year old son’s fascination with our family history. While knowing some general details, this has not been a topic that I’ve spent much time thinking about recently. So he set out to obtain all the genealogical information that he could to reconstruct the family tree.
This is still a work in progress, but coming along very well with the aid of many family members, most particularly my father–and I would just like to post 2 photos that are of great interest to me. The first is one of our most ancient traceable ancestors, who apparently went by the name of Dov Caplan in an area that today would be considered Lithuania. Dov would be my father’s great grandfather, or my great-great grandfather, or my son’s great-great-great grandfather–6 generations removed. We are not sure of his age in the photo, but it was likely taken in the late 1850s or early 1860s.
Dov Caplan- circa 1960? Family resemblance?
The second photo features me, as a baby in 1965, with 4 generations on my mother’s side. Unfortunately, I am the only generation still alive in that photo.
So the trip was beneficial as well. Just to round things out, we listened again to Bill Bryson’s wonderful audiobook book (read by the author) “A Short History of Nearly Everything” where he notes that each and every one of us alive today probably shares a million or more atoms with Shakespeare. I wonder how many of my atoms are from Dov Caplan?