Thursday, September 20, 2007

Great Great Grandma Rose

Every family’s got a story, right? A few years ago I tried building a family tree. What I wanted was to be able to tell my boys the story of how they came to be. What I found was that mine is more like a family bush. Small, tangled and sometimes thorny.

My mother is German, Italian, Irish, Danish, French-Canadian … or is that French COMMA Canadian? Great grandmother Marie Chartrand was certainly French, but Canadian?? Ah, who knows. My father was born in Puerto Rico. Over the years I’ve learned some veeery interesting things about my family. Fun stuff like this….

My great grandfather’s family came here from Italy and had to change their last name from Gorriano because they’d been known as horse thieves. My great grandfather had been in the Kaiser’s army in Germany. My grandmother claims to have started women’s lib by wearing blue jeans in the 40’s. At my grandfather’s funeral, five women showed up wearing diamond rings. He’d proposed to each of them while still married to my grandmother. I have a half sister that I haven’t seen in 15 years. Seventy five years ago, my great grandfather got Lucille pregnant, and called of his wedding to another woman so he could marry her. My grandmother still has the papers that her grandfather signed when he came to America, giving up all allegiance to Austria.

One thing I’d never heard in all this was that my great great grandmother Rose was Jewish. Now, I know the love story of Rose and George, and maybe someday I’ll even take the time to write it. But my grandmother mentioned on the phone last night that here had been a huge family fight brought on by Rose’s Jewish parents because she wanted to marry George, a Catholic. She said that she didn’t know how ANYONE didn’t know, as Aunt Sophie would tell anyone who would listen that she was really Jewish. Hmm, I guess that might explain the Star of David that Aunt Janice wore, too. I figured it was just because she wanted to impress Uncle Sol.

While I’m not religious, I’m absolutely fascinated by religious rites, beliefs and art. I’m not going to say I suddenly feel connected to the struggles of Israel or anything, but I was definitely intrigued by this little tid bit. Maybe I should go see my grandmother and have a notebook ready, before all this family history is lost to time.

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