Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nonnie Wafts

Nonnie Wafts

waft |wäft, waft|
pass or cause to pass easily or gently through or as if through the air

I’ve been too busy wafting to write lately. (Well, I also blew my wad on that last poem I posted.  I had to wait for a refill from Whoever distributes that kind of thing.  Writers of lesser works get fill-ups, too, you know. Maybe half a tank or maybe a trickle-I never know what to expect-and I damn sure don’t know when to expect it.) Anyways, back to wafting. One hot afternoon I up and started tracing my ancestry. As I’m pretty sure you know, it’s an easy thing to do these days, thanks to people like poor Steve Jobs-pancreatic cancer, jeez louise! 

genealogy |ˌjēnēˈäləjē, -ˈal-|
noun ( pl. genealogies )
a line of descent traced continuously from an ancestor: combing through the birth records and genealogies.
• the study and tracing of lines of descent or development.
• a plant's or animal's line of evolutionary development from earlier forms. 
genealogist |-jist|noun,
genealogize |-ˌjīz|verb
ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French and late Latin from Greek genealogia, from genea ‘race, generation’ + -logia (see -logy) .

That’s what I’m doing, combing through, only I never suspected I’d find it to be such a warm, romantic, emotional experience. Take Joseph Kennedy, our Joseph Kennedy, who was born in 1840, in Athlone, Westmeath, Ireland, five years before the potato famine, “an Gortá Mór”, the “Great Hunger,” began. Then I learned that he moved to Liverpool and in 1860, or so, he married an English girl, Elizabeth Campbell.   In1882 his wife and two of his daughters took a ship to the US. I imagine Joseph died in Liverpool sometime before his wife got on the boat.  He was an iron turner and Elizabeth was a cotton weaver. The two Kennedy sisters married two Blum brothers five years after getting to New York.  My guess is those girls were pretty, with dimples like my Nana. 1840 is as far back as I’ve gotten with Joseph’s line-record keeping might not have been a priority for the likes of Irish iron-turners or English cotton-weavers in those days.

Now the French! They were serious about keeping track of people. I’ve gotten as far as 1600 with that bunch. I’m going to read about Samuel de Champlain’s settlement in Quebec City, because some of my ancestors were there. Pioneers! Tracing my mother’s father’s family had me wafting in France-Paris, even-and Canada for days.

For some time now it’s felt to me like my family’s been shrinking-I suppose a lot of people in my generation feel that way- what with their mom and dad, aunts and uncles gone, or in their old age. We know our “folk” are all over, some kindred spirits, some not so much, but still, there’s an emptiness above us we have to adjust to.

I feel bigger now.  After the little bit of looking back I’ve done, I’m beginning to sense how huge our family, hell, all our families are. I could be related to every single person that reads my maunderings.  (Yes, I know. “Maunder” is a verb, but if the talking heads can pounce on a perfectly good noun, “incentive,” use its awkward verb form and “incentivize” everything, I can make a noun out of “maunder.”. Well I think I can….er, obviously.) After I die and get to do some quality, bodiless, wafting, I want to meet these men, women, and oh! so many infants and children, about whose births, marriages,  deaths, and immigration records I’ve been dreamily reading. I want to have a good talk with the wood carver from Bavaria, the lady music teacher in Old New York, the French knight, the English farmer. I want to play with all those babies, (so carefully, beautifully named!) and listen to the stories the children have to tell. 

The Florida heat, too much talk by and about Republicans, the general wonkiness of my health and my fed-up-it-ness with feeling guilty that it isn’t better, were getting to me-I was coming down with crankiness and dare I say it out loud? feeling sorry for myself. But I don’t have time for all that nonsense now.  I want to see what I can find out about the Augustines from Trieste, and bring my brothers up to speed about Joseph and Elizabeth from Liverpool.

1 comment:

Bev said...

"The Florida heat, too much talk by and about Republicans..." I am in Tallahassee, Nonnie. Need I say more? I enjoyed your wafting. You make me want to be the geneology thing again. My sister has done a lot, but I was supposed to supply details she didn't have. Guess I'll do that now.