Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Southern Gothic

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.


Kiwi Nomad said...

One of the great things about all those second cousins is the way you sometimes meet in a small country like ours. I have been having some contact recently with a 'new' second cousin. It turns out her son is going out with the daughter of some close friends of mine. The coincidences we have discovered in our lives have been quite remarkable. And we definitely share the same kind of Irish "look".

Unknown said...

May your grandmother rest in peace.

Any chance that illegitimate child of Henry II was Hamelin de Warrenne, one of whose Warren descendents landed at Jamestown?

If so, we're something like 10th cousins.

mrsdarwin said...

No, the descendant seems to be William Longespee, the first earl of Salisbury, according to a family geneaology.

Pro Ecclesia said...

"My mother's family live in the South, and have always lived in the South, except for when they lived in Virginia ..."

I've forgotten ... where was the capital of the Confederacy located? What state were Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson from?


Rick Lugari said...

the descendant seems to be William Longespee

I remember him, he was the guy who wrote the book One Full Bladder.

Anonymous said...

There is even a cousin Robert E. Lee, and don't forget Grandma's journals of all the books that she ever read, as well as their summeries...

Rest in Pease Grandma.

beez said...

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. Lord, have mercy.

That said, you dishonor me, sir! While Yankees may consider Virginia something other than the South, I can assure you that we Virginians are quite convinced it is the south. We have the crushing heat and humidity to prove it. :)