My parents weren’t big on keeping in touch with their families. My father lied about his age so he could get into the Air Force at 15. My mother left home when she was 12. Even though they cared about their families, they never looked back much. As a result, I grew up utterly ignorant as to my ancestral background. I was so clueless, I didn’t even know I was clueless. . .
On the other side of the coin, my husband’s family has regular family reunions. Even relatives of relatives are welcomed. People you’ve never seen before in your life show up. You can tell, however, who IS a blood-relative and who MARRIED a blood-relative. The blood-relatives have the exact same eyebrows – thick and shaped like wedges. . . like my husband’s. . .
. . . As you can see from this picture I had taken of him while he is driving. (Usually, this expression is on MY face, but I was distracted by the new digital camera at the time.)
Married additions to the family do not have dense wedges for eyebrows. To be candid, neither do the blood-related female relatives. The women pluck their brows into finely chiselled arches. But I can always identify them by the shape of their feet. That is another shared trait. Since the family reunions are in July, there is an abundance of flip-flops, and all one has to do is look down.
I can only wish I had finely chiselled arches for eyebrows. I have half-brows that I fill in with cosmetics. My eyebrows started out well-marked and stout, but when I was fifteen I lost them when I was making cake frosting on a double boiler. There I was, stirring milk and sugar over boiling water, then the next thing I knew, the pan was in the middle of the kitchen floor and my eyebrows were on the ceiling. They eventually grew back, but much, much thinner.
My husband also knows – or has heard of – all of his relatives, which, I would have to admit, are legion. The Harris family reunions are large enough to trash the Stilwell City Park bathrooms. The only relative he had never met was a great, great-grandmother who was still alive after we were married. No one even told us about her trickling out her late years in a nursing home until a decade after she had died.
My parents, however, held back much more about our family. As a prime example, I found out about the existence of one of my first cousins when I met him at my grandmother’s funeral. I was 12 at the time and he was in his 30’s. He was a very nice guy who told us all about the time he sprouted angel wings and flew to Japan before they fell off and disappeared. . . Whatever. . . That is beside the point . . . I just know that I knew nothing of my family background until I was in MY 30’s.
I would find out things about my family background only after Dad had a couple of beers with his dinner. I remember having a shrimp barbeque when I was 37 and finding out after my Dad drank his second Miller that my great-grandmother was French. That would certainly explain my insane yearning to visit Paris before I die . . . AND my father’s black beret in the back of his closet.
Sadly, I know things about my family now, that even my brothers – at 50 – do not know. That could be because of the simple fact that I’ve had many more margaritas with our parents than they have. Just recently, I was able to inform my brothers that we three ‘kids’ had inherited our shifty, closely set eyes from our Copenhagen, Denmark, side of the family.
They were surprised, since neither of them even knew that we are one-eighth Danish in the first place.
All I can say is this: If I have kids, they will no doubt have dense, wedge-shaped eyebrows, Harris Family feet, bony noses, narrow-set eyes like finger-holes in a bowling ball, and a mouth that can eat corn-on-the-cob through a picket fence . . . And I will make sure that they keep in touch with family.