Friday, January 26, 2007

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

9. This person in my family was more serious than the rest.
That would have to be my step-father. There is a strong funny gene in the rest of the family that results in a generally lighthearted approach to life.

Daddy came out of an impoverished childhood, with both of his parents being immigrants. His mother was German and his father Irish. This is a particularly odd combination, because the traditional German mother of those days expected that she was the sergeant and the father was the general. She passed on the orders, consulted her husband when a new policy had to be developed, and knew that he would back her up. The traditional Irish family was different. Because of the problems in Northern Ireland, with only the Scots-Irish protestants who descended from the overseers brought over by the English being able to get good jobs, women were the support of the family and its backbone. A mother, knowing that her son would not have a chance in the world, bonded closely with him and required little of him. Her husband was a secondary male in her life and although she validated the legitimacy of her orders by stating that "himself says," she never consulted himself. He knew that his job was to agree that he had, indeed, said exactly that. So, Daddy's mother expected his father to tell her what to do and to be a strong bulwark against the world and his father expected his mother to run things with only token reference to him. Added to the fact that at that time establishments had signs out reading "No Irish Need Apply," the stars were certainly crossed here.

Daddy was a small man, he had been a jockey at one point. When he was seven, he sold newspapers in downtown Oakland. This involved fighting to keep other, bigger boys from taking over his corner. He told us stories about digging through grocery and restaurant garbage to find food to take home to his mother. The family lost seven children in the flu pandemic -- seven of Daddy's siblings died within a period of a few weeks.

This was not a background to grow a lighthearted person. He hated it when people would do the rabbit ears thing with their fingers when pictures were being taken. Actually, it infuriated him and he would rage on about it for quite some time.

This was the background to grow a person protective of women and children, however. He took his role as a provider and caregiver very seriously. He always wanted us to have the things he hadn't had as a child. He had grown up with a lenient father, but without security. He never had the new clothes and toys that other children had. And he wanted, most of all, a bicycle. We always had security with him, new clothes, toys. And bikes. If we didn't take care of our other toys, the natural consequence of losing them would teach us better. But, I can't remember how many bikes we left out and he replaced. He could not bear it for us not to have bikes.


Ron Southern said...

Nuther good one!

J said...

I never knew that so many of Grandpa's brothers and sisters died in the pandemic...I guess that's why we didn't know any but Aunt Thelma, huh? Because there weren't too many still around.

I think that alone would suck the joy out of a person, and then the poverty in addition. Wow. He and Grandma both have had their share of knocks in this world. Makes me feel pretty fortunate.

gawilli said...

Nice post. This is the one that has stumped me and I still have not done it yet. My mother was a depression era child and I see many of the same traits you mention in her.