Saturday, November 25, 2006
Ah, Thanksgiving Day in Minnesota. You'd think I'd be spending the typical day doing the typical family dinner with the typical American family. Nope, not this day. Instead, my family stayed at home with sneezes and sniffles, watching Thanksgiving Day parades on TV. We were banned from the family dinner table, germs and all. Instead, my father-in-law went out of his way to actually deliver us dinner a la carte after the family had their feast. It was a win/win situation... they didn't get our sniffles, and we still got to eat without having to get out of our pajamas (gotta lov
e that man!).
I found enough energy to peel my butt off the couch, a box of Kleenex at my side, with extra wads tucked under my shirt sleeves (thanks Grandma Pat for that trick), and checked my email. I was waiting for news. Big news. News that could possibly change the course of my day and life.
I met Roger over a year ago, September 2005 to be exact. I didn't really "meet" meet him, instead I was given his name by the library in Cork City, Ireland. I rang him knowing his local historical society was going to be giving a talk about their native son of Cork, Jerome Collins, in just a few short days, unbeknownst to me prior to contacting the library. Roger is quite the character, he took charge of the conversation, knowing I was calling him long distance from Minnesota, and immediately set me straight that I was to call him Ronnie, that everyone he knew called him Ronnie, that's how it's always been and that is what I should call him too. He agreed to contact me after the meeting and let me know what took place, I wanted to see what the historical society knew about Jerome that I didn't and vice versa. He got my email address and we said goodbye before I could express my gratitude, Ronnie in Cork had made quite the impression with me... were all Irish this brash and brazen and to the point? An email arrived the next day, and 1 year later they still continue. Ronnie and I have become good friends. I managed to entice him to further his curiousity into the life of my ancestor, Jerome Collins, and in return, he has opened up avenues that would have never been possible had I never made that call. Together, we decided to write Jerome's story, starting out small.
Our first article appeared in The Archive, published in Cork. Through his connections, and having previously written an article about two of his uncles lost on the Ardmore, Ronnie and I were allowed to write Jerome's story. It was short, about 2,000 words. It was enough to get the word out that this native son of Ireland should not be forgotten for all the contributions he made to society and that of the world. This was our test, and we were able to work through the kinks to co-author this article despite the great pond of water that separated us.
Next came The Holly Bough, also published in Cork, a yearly Christmas paper put out specially by the Cork Evening Echo. Once again, we were given a 2,000 word limit. But with colorful pictures and a different focus on Jerome's life, the salivating was beginning in us to write more about Jerome, and people were finally taking notice of this long lost son of Ireland.
I myself, had made the headlines in conjuction with Jerome 6 times in just two weeks since October 28th of this year. TWO WEEKS. That's amazing. I can't even remember making the highschool newspaper. I appeared on RTE Radio 1's Seascapes website, along with their section in the Echo, plus a few other mentions and photos in the Echo; Ronnie was interviewed on Seascapes in honor of Jerome's 125th year of his death in the arctic. By this time, Ronnie was entrusted with all I knew about Jerome and the family skeletons in the closet. He could take the info and go off on his own sharing the story with the world, breaking all connections with me. But he didn't. And I knew he wouldn't. Ronnie and I, through our friendship, developed a working relationship for the greater good, to delve deaper into the Collins family roots, to find out what Jerome Collins was all about, and bring him back into the hearts of all Corkonians.
I had made contact with a publisher in Ireland. It was time to write Jerome's story, to let all of Cork and Ireland know about their forgotten hero. The publisher was intrigued, he wanted to know more. Could I write a book by myself? How could I tell my ancestors' story without ever having stepped foot on my ancestral soil of Ireland? How would I describe Cork in the 1840's, all the way through to present, having never lived there? There was only one way I could pull it off, and do honor to the Collins family name. Ask Ronnie. And ask I did. In fact, I begged, quite a few times. Ronnie was the native of Cork, Ronnie knew the history of Cork, he lived and breathed everything Irish. Everything was at his fingertips. For the greater good, for the forgotten hero of Ireland, for my GG Granduncle Jerome, he agreed to co-author Jerome's story with me. Ronnie was to meet with the publisher in person on Thanksgiving Day.
I sat down at the computer, put the box of Kleenex down on my desk and opened up my email. One by one the emails came, but I didn't need to know about the latest sale at Old Navy or JCPenney. I was waiting for word on how Ronnie's meeting went with the publisher. Why would I want to write a book and have it published in Ireland, you ask? Why not. It's where part of me came from, and it's only natural I give back to Cork what Cork gave to me.
Ronnie's email arrived. I read it, blah blah blah, something about ear infections, Happy Thanksgiving Day wishes to my family, yadda yadda, and then... the meeting.... "We're on" he writes. We're on!!!!!!!
I ran outside to my husband, grabbed the phone and called our parents, all the while my husband is wondering what I'm doing with a trail of Kleenex falling out of my sleeves. I announce to the family that I am about to begin a new journey, and for reasons other than wanting to put a buck or two in my pocket, I was going to publish my ancestor's story. Ronnie was going to co-author it with me, and for the first time since 1884, everything about Jerome J. Collins was going to come to light for the entire world to see. All the hundreds and hundreds of hours of research I had done was going to be compiled. Ronnie's knowledge of Ireland was going to be put to the test. Together we were going to combine our resources, our research, and our respect for one man, and tell his story as best we could. I could think of no better way to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. I was thankful for all my roots, Norwegian, Swedish, and Irish. And I was thankful for that good friend across the big, big pond over in Cork who cared enough to help me.
Let the journey begin.