When my daughter Marissa turned 24 a couple weeks ago, I gave her some beautiful albums and boxes to document her upcoming wedding to Jeff. One of the boxes, I told her, was meant to store family photographs so that she could begin building her legacy to show her sons and daughters pictures of her ancestors and tell them a little about where they came from.
She sort of looked at me like I was crazy. That's perfectly understandable for a girl her age. I didn't pay much attention to the photo albums my mom kept in the bottom of her hope chest until she was long gone. Then I wondered: who the heck are all these people and why do they look nothing like me?
Part of the problem was my mom didn't label any of the photographs so I have about a hundred of them with people in them who are total strangers to me. Thanks, mom!
Look at this top photo for example. That's my great grandfather, I think his name was Bill because everybody seemed to be named Bill back then instead of Steve-o or Bruce. The happy couple are my aunt Elizabeth and her husband, I think his name was Bill also. I'm not really sure. He might have been Murray. Rounding out the foursome in the photo is my great grandmother Mary Brett whom I always thought looked like a monkey. A very unhappy monkey who made the side- Danish hairstyle popular before Princess Leia.
The monkey influence was very strong in the Brett family. All of my aunts looked just like her -- dour, wizened, kind of skinny by today's standards. My grandmother Ina was the spit of her mom. Ditto my Aunt Irene. It was a little race of Irish monkeys in baggy house dresses and unfortunate hairstyles.
Thank goodness, the Irish got mixed together with a little German on my mom's side. Here is a photo of my Gramps, Loyal Crown, I kid you not, that was his name and my ma, Vera, on her wedding day. Looking at this photo, you can't help but thank God that my mother got her looks from, well, I don't know from where. Gramps wasn't much of a looker, that's for sure. Maybe it was the milkman.
My mother then mixed her blood with my father Russ and that led to the Irish/German/Scottish period. We then became a mixture of monkeys and pugs.
That, in turn, produced this brigade and made us all candidates for alcoholism and jig-dancing.
(As evidenced by me, with the glass of red wine in my hand, even back then.) Fortunately for my brothers, they were saved by lacrosse and rowing. I, on the other hand, became a journalist, which explains a lot.
Now my kids were made from another mix entirely. They are half purlaine French Canadian. Which means they are susceptible to health concerns brought on by the over-eating of fat pork, goose liver and French fries mixed with gravy and cheese curds, all chased with maple syrup. The good news is the addition of the French influence has meant they have higher self-esteem and sense of entitlement than their potato eating loserish relatives on the Irish side, ancestors who looked like monkeys and danced like Christmas elves.
I hope this will help Marissa explain to her kids where she came from.
(Ed. Note) The nice looking tall fellow had nothing to do with this. And the ginger Prince Harry look-a-like somehow snuck into the photo without my knowledge.