Monday, January 20, 2014

What triggers your connection to family and the past?

This morning I had the pleasure of interviewing Israel Pickholtz via telephone for the Genealogy Professional podcast.  Israel was born in the United States, Pittsburgh specifically, and then settled in Israel.

I wasn't quite sure what I would encounter when interviewing Israel. I knew he spoke English but I wasn't sure how he would sound or whether he would have an Israeli accent. I went to high school with a boy from Israel so I was familiar with at least one type of Israeli accent.

My mother and her family come from Pittsburgh so I have strong connections, both sentimental and otherwise, with the area. Israel was raised there but left forty years ago.  But I knew the shared Pittsburgh connection would be a good starting point for us.

Imagine my surprise when I heard Israel's voice and it transported right back to my family gatherings. Israel has, whether he knows it or not (now he does!), a Pittsburgh accent when he speaks English.  His speech sounds exactly like that of my Uncle Bud.

I couldn't help but smile to myself the entire time during the interview. I had to wait until the end to let Israel in on my secret.

The surprising thing to me was how relaxed and comforted I found the sound of Israel's voice, the voice of a stranger. My Uncle Bud is someone I love dearly and thinking of him triggers all sorts of family memories for me. The sound of his voice transports me to family events full of laughter and being bear-hugged and twirled upside down as a kid by his strong arms. It makes me feel loved. Israel's voice took me right back to those memories, both recent and long ago in the past.

I don't live near Pittsburgh, and I suppose the accent probably changes with each generation so Pittsburghers today probably sound different. The Pittsburgh accent my uncle has is probably very common for people of his age. Yet for me it is something I associate specifically with him.

It's funny how something that could be fairly common like that can evoke such a strong response even when I hear the accent from a different source.  This was my very first time talking to and getting to know Israel and yet I had an immediate affinity for him because of the way he spoke. I find it powerful that just his accent could be comforting to me and have such a strong impact on me.

There are many triggers that remind of us of our families. Besides language, it could be triggers from photographs, shared membership in a club or organization, a smell, a sound.

Have you ever experienced being transported sentimentally by a trigger like this where you found comfort, calm or a sense of peace, even though logically without the trigger it would not normally happen?

I would love to hear your stories of how you have been transported back. In the mean time, I am going to spend a few more minutes enjoying the moment and the happiness that comes with remembering family memories.


  1. Marian, I just got some VCR tapes transferred to video. We weren't a video family, and the camera was rented for the interview I made with my Dad and his brother. Wow! Seeing and hearing them again was so much fun. Also a spot of my 23-year-old as a toddler.

  2. Isn't that funny how you recognized the accent! And think about how probably many of our reactions to people may be based on past memories & associations we make instead of the situation or person in front of you. I mean, how different would your feelings in this interview have been if he reminded you of an uncle you didn't like? Thanks for the interesting post :)

  3. Couldn't come up with one thing or two, so I'm late. But thanks so much for posting this! It has truly been working for me. Funny the way the mind works....

  4. Looks like Linda has done what I advised, without even hearing me say it yet.