My sis has been trying to talk me into using a popular web service whose function is to provide (you) a detailed breakdown of your ‘family tree’, and, in a way, an ‘instant family’, by way of a simple test (a hundred bucks), and a sample of your DNA. To many, that may be a tempting suggestion. And yet, not for me. No offense, sis. Not interested. Thanks anyway. Why? In a word, sex.
After all these years of savoring the deeply Southern ‘mystery’ of my mom’s family situation, I’m ‘hooked’. To her dying day, my mom only had a tremulous emotional hold on the kids of her sisters, her apparently ‘lowered status’ was infuriating to me. I could be found, in my teens, mulling over and over, their strange and incomprehensible behaviors, and stand-offish geniality over the years and decades, the eye rolling, the muted conversations, with far-away fights you could barely hear, with peaks and valleys, and unintelligible shrieks and shushes, always in other rooms of the house: the slammed doors and drawers, the rattled contents in the fridge, the cracking of unneeded ice for bottles of Nehi, never opened: and, ‘little pitcher’, me: I could just die from excitement.
And later, as a young adult, thrilling over news of my mom’s scandalous alleged bastardy, her tales of being locked in solitary by narcissistic nuns, and so after years of intrigue and imaginative speculation lavished on me, well! The senseless senselessness, the uncertainty; and oh! the raised eyebrows, the covering of faces with hands, the guilty pleasures of inappropriate laughing, the misunderstandings! I loved them all. Truly. Over my, shall we say, several decades of life, the mystery became just a part of my story. It doesn’t determine who I am. Only I can do that. I became something else. Me. No mystery there, eh?
So, needless to say, I was only too happy to save the hundred bucks. I had heard some things I didn’t like, because I had lived with my mom’s mom, for some years, from the age of fourteen. She was a peach. A smelly peach, to be sure, and given to going on at length about Dean Martin, and to going as far as making popcorn for us all as we watched him on his weekly t.v. show, “as a family”, as she would say, and the twice-daily back-rubs, yes, with Ben Gay, and by me. She was my Gran. We were meant to be, she and me. What more need I say? Of course, I knew nothing of her varied exploits, then. Oh, dear me, no. She was just Gran, to me, then, and a vociferous cryer, and a Bible-thumper, if a Catholic (we were raised Baptist), at that.
So, I said, “No thank you”, to my darling sis. “Sorry, Sherry-berry. Not interested,” I confessed.
“But, thanks! Don’t get me wrong, if y’all want to do all that, go ahead. Just so’s you know, I’d just as soon you all keep all that stuff to yourselves. Don’t need to know, don’t want to know, no thank you.”
I thought we had achieved a tacit agreement, a mutual nuclear family disarmament.
Then, three days later, from the kitchen, “Oh, your sister said you are 21% Irish, and the rest, Welsh and British. She just wanted you to know.”
“Are you kidding me?!!” I shouted. You could have knocked me over with a feather. This was a clear breach of protocol.
“Never trust a Celt!” I said.
~ Tim Burchfield