That question flashed through my brain on a regular basis – usually in full caps – while I was researching Life & Legacy, my book about my grandmother, Ruth (Birdsall) Elmhurst. Sure, I was fully engrossed in the research. After all, my endless forays down family-history rabbit holes were unravelling my own Peterborough County roots as well as my grandmother’s. And there is no question the project was a great place to hide during the (never-ending) pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
But by spring 2021, I began to suspect the research had unleashed an inner sleuth whose insistent demands defied reason. There was always one more Birdsall or Elmhurst relative to pursue, one more fleeting reference to decode. And there were endless dates to pin down. In other words, there was always one more reason not to finish the darn book.
I was flying solo on this project – research, writing and layout were all up to me, all wound together in a huge interlocking ball of stress.
After 30 years in newspapers and magazines, I should have known that what I needed was a deadline.
Then life gave me the push. One of my aunts hit some health challenges – temporary as it turned out – but enough to spur me on. I needed to hand her a
finished book while she was in decent health. After all, it was this aunt, Barbara Mather, now in her mid-90s, who gave me the bundle of Grandma’s letters that launched my book journey. Plus I just knew she would enjoy reliving her shenanigans as a spunky teen as revealed in the 1940s letters.
So one fine day in April 2021 I took a deep breath, picked a date four weeks in the future, and called a contact at a Waterloo printing company. Just like that: I had a deadline. And for the next four weeks I ran like heck to finish the 80-page book.
Finally, dizzy with nervous anticipation, I delivered the finished book to a slew of relatives, including Aunt Barbara and her sister-in-law Laura Elmhurst, who had provided old photo and all kinds of research support.
In the weeks ahead, I discovered the best was yet to come as friends and relatives reached back with warm comments about the book and the family memories it had triggered.
Life lesson relearned: Sometimes you really do have to call it quits in order to