Monday, October 11, 2010

Personal History

Yesterday Grandma Madeira turned 90. Today we had a party. I was the only one of her direct progeny who was able to be there, far-flung family that I have, but her brother and most of his daughters, and her sister's kids, and another brother's granddaughter, and my Grandma Grosser and Auntie Jane from the other side of the family were all there. Also The Swedes, a couple of family friends who just love my grandmother and who more than deserved to be there.

We reserved a room in the retirement community where she lives, and we sat around a white-tableclothed table and ate cake and drank coffee and told her a little of what she meant to us and some of our favourite memories of her. There are certain family stories that get told over and over so many times that even though I may not have been born until 50 years after the event, I could probably tell you the story and make you think I had been there. Some of those got re-aired today. But there were also stories or things I hadn't known before. Or at least, I don't remember knowing them.

I didn't know that Grandma Madeira had been proposed to by two different men at pretty much the same time, and had to pick one. I didn't know that her Swedish immigrant parents had moved back to Sweden after emigrating to the States for a while, and that she was conceived there and her mother was carrying her in the womb when they returned to America on behalf of their children. I didn't know how much she and Grandpa Madeira had meant to their nieces and nephews.

I also don't think I knew that her father came to the US in the first place at age 16 because he didn't want to be drafted, because he didn't believe in fighting. You can tell me my great grandfather was a draft-dodger, but the thing is, I don't take that as an insult, and I'm proud he was a pacifist. It was subsequently pointed out that Grandpa Madeira's father was also a pacifist and conscientious objector, as a "plain person" from Lancaster County, PA. I guess I'm about 99% pacifist, and I guess I've mostly come to that perspective myself, but do you think there are pacifist genes? Because maybe I come by this naturally.

1 comment:

Annelise said...

Didn't realize you didn't know these stories--sounds like an informative and fun day!