• Ruminations
  • Sep11

    3 Comments

    I visited the NYC Police Museum a few years ago when my son was about 7 years old. He was very interested in the 9/11 exhibit there, but was tough talking with him about it.

    Our thoughts are with all that were lost 12 years ago.

    Son at 9/11 Exhibit at NYC Police Museum, 2010
    The Old Slip police station, N... Digital ID: 120399. New York Public Library

    That museum is a great one to visit – the exhibits are well done and it is located in the Old Slip police station near the South Street Seaport. Sadly, it has been closed since Hurricane Sandy – hopefully it will open again soon.

    Thanks to the NY Public Library “The Pageant of America” Collection for the image of the Old Slip Police Station.

  • Sep20

    2 Comments

    When I was eleven,
    eleven days before my father’s birthday,
    as I tiptoed up the creaking stairs at bedtime
    he called me from his bed.

    My boyish perspective of him
    was as a somewhat mysterious being
    who had existed full grown, free range and in power
    forever.
    Mike Tierney, Baseball Uniform
    Although I had seen our family photographs
    I didn’t really link the baby in them
    nor the yard full of dirt and gardens
    and odd bits of wood lying about
    to him.

    From these photographs I did understand
    he was in the Navy during the war
    but didn’t see any of the fighting
    (which I, of course, attributed to an imaginary
    undercover spycraft they needed him for)
    and that he and my mother met at work
    and went to the beach together.
    Dad, Navy
    I also suspected that quite a bit seemed to have happened
    in the several years before I was around
    while my brother and sisters were,
    thanks to the projector and slides
    that smelled of electricity and dust
    he took out at intervals and the mote-filled light
    he pointed at the wood panel walls.

    I can recall his taking me to work in Manhattan
    down through dark and dingy subways and streets,
    printing out pictures of Snoopy for me
    made up of the alphabet in unlikely formations
    by machines of great size and noise
    using paper with alternating bars of white and green.
    Dad & Buddies, Central Park
    And our trip to the Museum of Natural History
    early one Sunday morning, so early the museum was far from open.
    He talked a man cleaning out a side street bar
    into giving us two short bottles of White Rock cola
    which we carried back to the museum steps
    and sat drinking, sweet and warm,
    while he pointed out places in the park he used to play
    and the architecture of buildings that stood coldly around us.

    On this eleventh day before my birthday,
    I can see my father sitting upstate in an Adirondack chair
    a blanket covering his legs and keeping him warm
    in stuffy summer air
    with The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in his lap.

    I can remember walking from the bedroom steps
    to him after his call
    and his blue, blue eyes looking at mine.

    I can feel his thin arm reaching around my shoulder,
    his kiss on my head,
    his “Goodnight, Johnny”
    and his hug longer than expected.

    I can look back over my shoulder
    his eyes still on mine
    while I climbed the stairs to bed

    just before cancer won the day.

    Tonight,
    On this eleventh day before my birthday,
    the same birthday my father was approaching when I was eleven,
    as I climb the creaking steps
    to my own children’s bedrooms
    I will think of his kiss
    and I will kiss their clear, sweet faces
    as they sleep.


    Upstate, 1974 Upstate, 2012

  • Jun1

    2 Comments

    Today is the 93rd anniversary of my grandparents’ marriage. Our family has never been particularly aware of the date, or even the event. But as I began reinvigorating my genealogy research a few years ago my first steps were to begin scanning all of our family documents and photos.

    May Egan, Uncle James Farrell & FriendAs I did so, my limited perspective on people began to change – rather than abstract folk fixed in time these images provided context and glimpses of them at various points in time. Last year I visited the church where my grandparents were married and found myself surprisingly touched just by standing in the spot where my grandmother must have waited at the rear of the aisle.

    We walk through life thinking we know the story. Any story. All stories. But we tend to focus mainly on the big ones. Those may be important, but often the seemingly mundane details can offer a finer and even more satisfying understanding.

    How Sound LogoThis morning I listened to the latest How Sound podcast entitled Mighty Tiny. At the start of the episode host Rob Rosenthal reads an opening quote that originally comes from the historian Will Durant. I was not familiar with Mr. Durant, but was struck by the perfect parallel of the passage to the perspective I have developed during my family research.

    I began to look into his writing and found that the Will Durant Foundation site contains a larger section of the passage. I think anyone active in researching their family will find that the ideas in these paragraphs are an affirmation of the task and that life on the banks is our inheritance.

           “It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite without influence at this moment. The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated in this second of time. You, too, are your past; often your face is your autobiography; you are what you are because of what you have been; because of your heredity stretching back into forgotten generations; because of every element of environment that has affected you, every man or woman that has met you, every book that you have read, every experience that you have had; all these are accumulated in your memory, your body, your character, your soul. So with a city, a country, and a race; it is its past, and cannot be understood without it.

    Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts – between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.”

    - As quoted in “The Gentle Philosopher” (2006) by John Little at the Will Durant Foundation

  • Jun1

    2 Comments

    Last year I was lucky to get reconnected to several first cousins that we hardly knew about, much less met.

    Tierney siblings, Jamaica, NY circa 1929

    Tierney Siblings: Michael, Sabina and John, Jamaica Queens, 1929

    The short short version of the story is that my grandfather John Tierney (sounds familiar) married Sabina Gilroy and had four children. Sadly, he lost his wife and 3 year old Winifred in the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic in New York.

    The next year he married my grandmother May and several years later they had my father. By all accounts their marriage was stormy and not good for the kids. After my grandfather died in 1935 the family drifted apart and my father apparently had very little contact with his brother and two sisters. (All half siblings to him.)

    More than a dozen years ago I started to get interested in genealogy, but worked at it sporadically. However, I kept adding to my findings and kept them on an Ancestry tree that was discovered last year by my father’s brother’s grandson’s wife. (Got that?) Read More | Comments

  • May13

    2 Comments

    This is not genealogy in any way, but is a bedtime conversation I had with our 4 year old daughter tonight as she fell asleep.

    I don’t want to forget it, so posting it here for posterity – my apologies to the 4.5 readers of my blog for going off track for a minute.
    Lily: Daddy, are you rich?
    Me: Not with money, honey, but I am rich with Love.
    *Quiet*
    Lily: Oh, I get it! You have lots of Love! Everybody is rich with Love!
    Me: Well, I don’t know if everyone is, but I know I am because of you, Miles, & Mommy.
    *Extended Quiet*
    Lily: Well, I’ll tell you who’s not rich with Love. The ancient Indians – they’re dead.