Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Bruce Levine

Friday was only three days away, but to James Letang, it seemed like an eternity. Actually, to almost any nine-year-old, three days can seem like an eternity when they’re waiting for something to happen. In James’ case the count-down had begun a lot longer than three days; it had begun a month ago when his parents told him that they were taking a trip to their ancestral home in Scotland.

During the past month James had done as much research as he was able about his ancestors, but that wasn’t much. The most he had found out was that the Letang family had come to the United States from West Dunbartonshire in Scotland in 1841. He also learned that his Letang ancestors had moved to America and Canada and that in 1880 there was a Letang family living in Massachusetts and the census found the most Letang families living in Canada in 1911.

Why James was so interested in his ancestry was a question he could never answer. Most nine-year-olds preferred other hobbies rather than genealogy, but James found it fun and he spent a lot of his free time searching through whatever records he could find. had been only the beginning and he saved his allowance to join it as a member which allowed him access to all sorts of records and historical documents. He studied census reports and ships’ manifests, draft records and anything else he could find which mentioned the Letang family name.

One interesting fact he learned was that in 1880 the most common occupation of the Letang family in America was teaching. He wondered about that and wondered if there was some family trait, even genetic, that automatically sent Letangs into teaching – both of his parents were history teachers and he wondered if he would become a teacher when he grew up as well.

When he’d been asked what he wanted to be when he grew up he always answered that he didn’t know, but now he began to wonder.

Of course there was also the hockey player, Kris Letang, so he wondered about a career in hockey. True to the Letang history at least, Kris Letang was born in Canada and had moved to America to join an American team. But James had no interest in hockey.

Another good thing about being the child of history teachers was that they encouraged his research, even found books and took him to bookshops and libraries specializing in genealogy, historical societies and, when possible, actual locations where Letangs had lived based on census reports. Scotland, however, was the furthest and best trip so far and going for the entire Easter vacation from school meant that they could not only go to West Dunbartonshire, but since it was only sixty-five miles away, could visit Edinburgh as well and his parents had a list of places they wanted to see and show James as well as special things specifically geared to children, not that James was your average child so the more children oriented events, like the Easter egg rolls, were crossed off the list in favor of a tour of the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

As James got ready for school he packed his Letang Family notebook into his backpack. He knew that we wouldn’t have time to read through it during the school day, but having it with him always made him feel that, maybe, he would find something new to add during his lunch period break that, instead of going outside or watching the movie that was always playing in the auditorium for anyone who wanted to stay indoors, he would go to the library to search around on the computer.

Wednesday and Thursday slowly passed and then it was finally Friday. Now all he had to do was get through school that day, get home and wait for his parents to take him to the airport. He’d wanted to get the earliest flight possible, but his parents knew they’d never make the six-fifteen out Kennedy Airport so they settled on nine o’clock that evening. More waiting. Plus the flight landed in Edinburgh so he’d have to wait until the next day to drive the sixty-five miles to West Dunbartonshire. At least his parents had agreed to take him there first and then return to Edinburgh later in the trip.

When he got home the housekeeper who came daily during the school year to be at home with him for the two hours until his parents arrived already had his suitcases and everything else he was taking waiting for him near the front door. As soon as he got home and saw them his excitement escalated and he felt one step closer to the big moment when they got in the car.

Even two hours can seem like forever when expectations had mounted to the boiling point and reality was just those two hours away and James couldn’t sit still long enough to do anything. He finally forced himself to open his laptop computer and take another look at for any possible clues that he might have missed and that he wanted to add to his list of investigations in Scotland. At least looking over the records, even though he’d seen them a hundred times, took his mind off the waiting and he was almost surprised when his parents called him from the front door and announced that they were home.

Everything was now ready to go, the suitcases were in the car and the house was secured for the trip. It had been decided to eat dinner at the airport so there was nothing further to do but get in the car and go.

James looked out the window of the back seat as his father backed the car out of their driveway. Tomorrow he’d be really home; he thought and wondered why he was feeling that way. Was West Dunbartonshire in Scotland really home?

It was an interesting question for a nine-year-old, but then James Letang was not your average nine-year-old. James knew what he wanted to be when he grew up; James already was what he was going to be. James Letang was a genealogist.


Bruce Levine has spent his life as a writer of fiction and poetry and as a music and theatre professional. A 2019 Pushcart Prize Poetry nominee and a 2021 Spillwords Press Awards winner, Bruce has over three hundred works published in over twenty-five on-line journals including Ariel Chart, Halcyon Days, Founder’s Favourites, Literary Yard; over sixty print books including Poetry Quarterly, Haiku Journal, Dual Coast Magazine, Tipton Poetry Journal, and his shows have been produced in New York and around the country. His work is dedicated to the loving memory of his late wife, Lydia Franklin. A native Manhattanite, Bruce now lives and writes in Maine.

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