Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grandpa, the Heathen

My maternal grandpa was a truly amazing man, and although Sadly, although I have no pictures of him (burned in a fire), I am blessed enough to have my wonderful memories. Every Friday evening, my mom would drop me off at my grandparent's house, and I would spend the weekend with them. My special grandpa times were on Saturday mornings. Grandma would stay at home, and grandpa and I would climb into his beaten up old jalopy and head into the town. Once there, he would give me a dollar, and each week while he took care of whatever business was at hand, I would go into the same store to buy the same thing--a cutout childhood addiction. Gosh, it always amazes me the things that stay with us from our childhood. To this day, I can close my eyes and sense everything about that store--the musty smell, the rows of tables stocked with a variety of products, the creaking wooden floor, the upward slant as you walked to the back to the land of the cutouts. Oh, what wonderful memories of days gone by!!!

Somehow, with that story I fell totally off track about what I had planned to write about...the importance of knowing who we are and where we came from. This came to me the other night as I was doing a little work on my family tree....I realized that I knew so very little about grandpa and his family. Oh, thanks to social security I learned the names of his mom and dad (for $25 you can obtain a copy of an original application which gives the names of parents). I learned that his dad's name was John and his mom's name was Mary. I learned that Mary came to America from Preuben. Germany in 1891 and that John's great grandparents had come from Baden, Germany in the 1840's. I learned that John was a fireman and had a brother, Otto, who was a New York City Police officer, and that they lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn...not too far from where I now work. And in the 1900 census I found John and Mary...but my grandpa, born in 1894, was not there. I 'did' find him living in Staten Island with his aunt, Catherine. That was the first time I became aware that my grandpa had not been raised by his parents...who, by the way and according to the 1910 census...were divorced. Unfortunately, I have been unable to trace Mary, but I did find John in the 1920 census living in Long Island with his new wife and daughter,Ruth, who I do remember as Aunt Ruth and her husband, Harvey.

And as I pondered the history of grandpa's family, a sobering thought occurred to me. I'd become so enamored with my Celtic line, that I had totally ignored another, equally important lineage--my Germanic ancestry...the heathens of my family tree. It's easy now to see how I could be tempted to overlook it. Celtic seems so full of wonder and awe while heathenry has almost come to be thought of as a derogatory term. But that is only a "perception" of a "word" and not the people's themselves. From a short course I took on Asatru, heathenism is a fascinating belief system filled with gods and goddesses and wonder and awe...who doesn't love the story of Odin, and Thor, and the goddess Freya?...and with very similar beliefs and practices as the Celts. I believe it is so important that we spend time learning about "all" of our lineage...not just those that we consider the glamorous ones.

Now, I am beginning to ramble, I know. Sorry, that is one of my little indiosyncracies. I guess what I am trying to say is this....We all have a fabulous history...full of ancestors and tales and belief systems and only by digging into the past, the entire past, can we learn about the present. Who are we, and how did we get here? What important questions they are!!!!