|Kai and Carl with their animal friends.|
“We only see each other in person once or twice a year, but we Skype quite a bit,” Carl says. “His mother and I brainstormed on how we could stay in contact more often. We came up with the idea for a genealogy book in which Kai and I would time travel to learn about our ancestors.”
After a visit to Springfield by Kai and his family, Carl sent them home with an empty three-ring binder, to which he adds installments combining photos, clip art, and text.
“My family had some history with James VI, who was king of Scotland in the 1500s. The story I’m doing for Kai has him as a knight—Sir Kai, Lord of Wales—and me as Opa Carl, Grand Wizard of Nottingham. Opa is German for grandpa. German is one of three languages Kai is growing up with; the others are Spanish and English."
Sir Kai rides a horse named Flame and Opa Carl has an owl named Hootie on his shoulder. King James the VI, whom the story identifies as Kai’s uncle, tells Opa Carl the kingdom is in danger from people who want to overthrow the king. "Included are members of the Clan Ruthven who are related to us and living in the castle," Opa tells Kai. "The king wants you to investigate the clan to find who he can trust."
Opa Carl and Sir Kai can travel anywhere, past or future. "No one can ever know we are from the future,” Opa Carl cautions. Carl can send Hootie as a scout. Hootie is a shape shifter, an American Indian term for an animal that can change into other creatures. Hootie becomes Mimi the mouse, Ring the raccoon, or Scooby Doo the dog.
A world-wide adventure
Besides the fun of the story—Carl says he is having more fun than Kai—Carl makes the genealogy book interactive for Kai by hiding Mimi and other animals on pages for Kai to find. He also drops in photos of Scotland he took as background for the characters. As the ancestry story develops, Carl will add maps and photos of Japan, England, and Ireland.
How long will it take to finish the project? “Kai likely will be grown,” Carl says.
Carl is a registered architect. He started drafting when he was nineteen. After two years of college, he became an architect’s apprentice for twelve years before passing the Missouri registration examination. He worked for eighteen years for Warren & Goodin Architects and Engineers in Springfield and designed hotels for John Q. Hammons. Parkinson’s disease forced him to retire in 2007 at age fifty-nine.
His book, Aux Arcs, Black & White Photography of the Ozarks Region, combines his love of photography with his poetry. Other of his photographs, poems, and essays are on his website, Liteworx Productions.
What fun new way have you found to tell your family history? Or, tell about such a project by someone you know.
Image: From a page in the James genealogy book. Courtesy Carl James.