My dad's family are Irish of the Potato Famine variety. They live in and around Philadelphia. They are cheerful and personable and loud and musical. They held a merry Irish wake when my grandfather died, but I (alas!) could not be there.
My mother's family live in the South, and have always lived in the South, except for when they lived in Virginia or England and were busy descending illegitimately from Henry II. Once upon a time my grandparents lived in what was once the home of Confederate General Carnot Posey, with an imposing grandfather clock and a covered back porch and a big kitchen now attached and vast pocket doors that separated the dining room from the front parlor, and all within calling distance of the boyhood home of Jefferson Davis. Any Southern family of any standing has a skeleton lurking somewhere in the deep attics that shade the broad porches and back verandas; ours was hauled into the light two years ago at a gruesome family reunion. Now we're having another family reunion of sorts; my grandmother's funeral is Tuesday, and I will be in attendance.
Grandma was a Lady: she played bridge and sipped coffee from a demitasse and had a succession of black cooks named Virginia. She ate "dinner", never "lunch". She had eleven children in fifteen years, which never seemed to keep her from looking trim and coiffed in old photographs. When we Yankee grandchildren came to visit, we would walk with her across the street to daily Mass, after which we would be presented to say good morning to Father and to Grandma's friends: Miss Mildred, Miss Irene, Miss Velma. And for the benefit of those who didn't attend daily Mass, she would send us down to the office of the small local paper with an announcement for the society column: "Friends will be happy to know that Mr. and Mrs. J. D__ were visited by their daughter A__, of Cincinnati, OH, and her children, and also by daughters B___ and S____, both of Baton Rouge, and their children."
My mother was the eighth of the eleven children; I was the twelfth of almost forty grandchildren. I have family members who know the difference between a second cousin and a first cousin once removed. The sheer size of family made it difficult to bond with anyone over such brief and infrequent visits as we made. When I last saw Grandma two weeks ago, I had to remind her often who I was and whose daughter I was -- in that regard, not much had changed.
Resquiscat in pacem.