Monday, September 13, 2010

Stories I heard somewhere...

Once upon a time there was a little girl who got teased a lot because her grandmothers' Apache features showed clearly in her face. She lost her grandfather and father before her seventh birthday, so she had to go with her sisters to work in a hosiery mill. This little girl worked her way through high school somehow and entered nursing school. There they told her she was wasting her time. Upon receiving this devastating blow, she tried to kill herself, but her younger sister and her friends saved her. So, she went to another nursing school, lied about her age, and finally got her RN at age 31. Our girl was now in her glory, with friends and money, making her home in New York City. But she was still self-conscious about her features. So she did what was at that time in history a sensible thing, she married a "pure blood German" to eliminate the wide face and high cheekbones in the next generation.

A daughter was a blessing, but there were to be no more children. And this one received the full brunt of her mother's medical theories. Please keep in mind that many of the things that Germany took blame for were part of the common beliefs of all "civilized" nations at one time. Then, at the appropriate time, the daughter was sent to college to find a husband, having never even chosen her own clothing, or had the chance to learn her father's native tongue.

And what a husband she found! An old, hard-drinking combat veteran, who loved honky-tonks and cigarettes. Their first home was a brothel where she worked as a maid while he tried his hand at a shoe factory. Once, when a customer mistook her for another kind of working girl, he put his hunting knife through the fellow's hand.

They had to get away from there, even he could see that. A one room shack behind a store was affordable, so there they went. The night the baby was born, dad couldn't drive to the hospital. The neighbor was drunk too, so she poured a pot of coffee into him, and got to the hospital by 2 a.m.

The little fellow cried so much. Mommy didn't know what to do, and daddy had to work. Once mommy gave the little guy a does of laudanum to shut him up. Daddy was cracking under the pressure. It was time for grandmother to step in. This was what she had been waiting for. She had failed with her daughter, but at least the girl had provided her own replacement. So our older and perhaps wiser Apache-featured RN took the child and put him into his mother's old room. Throwing herself into the task, she was sure things would be better this time.

But time was running out. Our little fellow lost his father and mother by the time he was four. At seven, when he had never bathed himself, dressed himself, cut his own food or tied his shoes, grandfather died. On his death bed, the old man repented that he had not involved himself in the life of his daughter or his grandson. Before witnesses, he made his wife promise to put the little fellow into a charity home for children. To her credit, she did this, though she plagued the staff there until her death.

So, what then is left for this child? Having lost the equivalent of two fathers, he might long for a love he can never have, like in Springsteen's "My Father's House." His mother abandoned him and he begged her not to go, this may lead him to push friends away, because he believes they will abandon him anyway. And....being so severely dominated by his grandmother, both physically and emotionally...well that might make him shun physical contact with any people, as well as other issues.

Ah, the past! Each of us is dragging along a whole collection of narratives, perhaps even like these. They can twist our present and rob us of the possibility of happiness in the future. Whether we are female or male, society shown us it's ideals and when we look at our narratives...well...who can ever measure up to an ideal? So, if we cannot escape them, at least let's help each other create some new narratives that will be challenging and fun!

1 comment:

  1. This is a "Household Family Tree." Anyone can look for ancestors, but what do they mean to us today? Ask who was the dominant person in your household as a child, then try to find out about their family situation. See how far back you can go, and you will also see habits spread over generations, and perhaps explanations of attitudes and behaviour in yourself.