Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Where Did I Come From

In the world of dogs, it's said that mutts are hardier, have better dispositions and are longer-lived than their pure-bred counterparts.

My peasant ancestry goes back to when my interprid lovebird parents skipped out of Poland as the Allies created havoc for the Germans where they made haste to a refugee camp in Switzerland. They stayed there for two years, my brother was born and then were sponsored by my rich great uncle in Chicago to come to America. My father got a job making doll's heads in another great uncle's factory. My mother became a seamstress and sewed, and I love this, blue jeans (as in the song "House of the Rising Sun".) The rest of my father's brothers and one sister beat it to western Canada somewhere in the middle of that. When I take a minute to think about what all of that means in practical terms, I find myself without words - still.

The long back story is that about 500 years ago, some great-great-great-etc-grandfather was a maker of books. His speciality was illuminated religious texts with commentary. At some point, he met a beautiful maid who just happened to be Jewish. So the story goes, he actually converted, lost his business and was forced to emigrate to Spain, where there was a larger community of Jews. These ancestral sweethearts were then ejected from Spain, with family in tow, and headed to el Norte, spending a generation or so devolving into migrant farm workers, that is, serfs-on-the-run, a-plantin and a-pickin their way through France, Germany and finally, Poland, where the family grew and grew, where they abandoned farming in lieu of more mercantile acheivments. By the beginning of World War II, my grandfather's company was one of the largest manufacturer of brushes and brush-related utensils in Europe. Sort of like the Fuller Brush man.