Family Heirlooms

One hobby that’s been taking up a little of my time lately is genealogy: I’ve been trying to research the history of my family and that of my husband. (God, sometimes I’m such a geek I can’t stand it.) I’ve gotten fairly far on both sides & I find it fascinating to imagine what our ancestors’ lives were like. [For the record, no, I am not a follower of the talking white salamander, although I guess technically, the talking salamander’s gone the way of unbaptized babies in limbo.] It’s the same part of my personality that likes crossword puzzles and mystery novels — the quest to solve the riddle, to fill in all the blanks. If you wanted to get psychological, you could wonder if I’ve got the urge to find answers to some questions to compensate for all the imponderable, unanswerable ones… Yeah, right, and I envy penises, too. (As Elaine says, how do you men walk around with those things?)

My family, as my ethnic last name and salty language might suggest, is of very humble origins. Three of my four grandparents were first-generation Americans of Polish or Lithuanian descent. Apart from the genes for fat asses and alcoholism, both of which were cheerfully and consistently passed down from generation to generation, there’s not much in the way of family heirlooms.

The fourth grandparent, my mother’s mother, is from a family that’s been in America a while. Certain slender twigs of the family tree can be traced back to John Adams, it is said with pride. My grandmother’s family fancied themselves quite the Astors compared to the coal miners they were forced to socialize with. Let’s be honest though; my grandmother’s family was, at best, middle class, in an ugly dying coal town.

One day, my mother arrived for a visit with several of these:

My late grandmother’s thirty-odd year collection of craft magazines, packed in plastic grocery store bags.

Don’t start breathing too heavily, though. No Alice Starmores, or even old Knitter’s in here (no old knitters, either). To put it bluntly, my grandmother was a cheese queen. We’re talking Crochet World and its ilk, here.

Full of lovely projects like this “Squaw Dress”

and this lovely Clown Pajama Bag (certain to land your child in the local university’s sleep clinic).

Mixed in were a few interesting ones, like an old book of lace edgings, but most of the stuff is as unattractive and uncomfortable-feeling as this bride-to-be:

Tattered, faded, marked up with my grandmother’s handwriting (dear God of all that is holy, why did she feel it necessary to “try” THIS?!)

Yet the hours of amusement they’ve given me cannot be underestimated. I guess we have to take our family heirlooms as we find them.

— Carol S.

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