Monday, November 15, 2010

The Rebel Trait

 (A family story)

     My adventurous, offbeat, and sometime stupid behavior in regards to marriage isn’t my fault!  I inherited a rebel trait. And the mutant gene my family slipped me is a doozy. It decodes something like this: If there isn’t some big ass controversy surrounding the guy, the guy ain’t worth marrying.  For me, the something big and exciting has got to be almost out of this world to make me want to get married, and I’m not talking a gargantuan diamond ring. (Evidently, I'm not that smart.) 
     My first husband and I ran off and eloped when I was just seventeen. I strong-armed my parents into signing the consent form by getting pregnant. Boy, did I teach them a lesson. The things I could tell Bella about controlling men.
     My rebound number two was just a blip in my life who turned out to have a multiple personality disorder. Yikes! Shudder. Restraining order. That’s all I have to say about that.
     My current hubby is the prize I won after duking it out with the Immigration and Naturalization Service for a year and a half. (I'd had enough of American men.) I won the battle, but they got the last laugh. (Refer to my earlier blogs for clarification).
      So where does this mutant gene come from?
After many happy years.
     Let me start with my paternal grandparents. Now, I’d heard the family lore, as told from my dad's perspective, but, over the years, it had become so sugar-coated, it was way too sweet to swallow. So, at my therapists advise, I interviewed older family members one by one, pieced all the different stories together, and came to a feasible conclusion by myself. 
    My grandmother—from whom I inherited the blue eyes and blond hair—was the child of Catholic Czechoslovakian immigrants who lived in Baltimore. Both her parents died when she was twelve or thirteen. Another Czech family who lived nearby took her in and raised her to adulthood. Her life was riddled with sadness, and she was educated sporadically, but she was a beauty—which was certainly an indispensable asset in the days before the Woman’s Suffrage victory.
      My grandfather was the boy next door, and the son of German immigrants. He was studying voraciously to be a Methodist minister. But the stars crossed, and Grandma and Grandpa fell in love. When they expressed their desire to get wed, both were directly excommunicated from their churches due to their relationship outside their respective religions. To make matters worse, both their families disowned them for a time, as well.
     This did not stop their love, a true love that was so strong, they fled to Kingston, New York to “escape religious persecution.” They said. Several months later their first child was born. She was named Juanita May after a woman who had helped them out while they were in Kingston. (Does anyone see the synchronicity here?)
        My grandmother must have discarded any information related to the exact date of her wedding day, with the same fervor she cut the size tags out of her clothing. I couldn’t find any supporting documentation, but I strongly suspect that it was after Juanita’s conception—just as I strongly suspected she was no longer a size 14 as she had claimed in her later years. This theory would explain the families’ temporary rejection and the sudden flight to New York.
     My grandparents eventually resumed residence in Baltimore where my educated and verbose grandfather became a milkman to support his new family. They raised five children,  my father being the youngest born after his mother thirty-ninth birthday, eighteen years after the birth of Juanita May.    
      My grandparents never went back to church, but they didn’t give up on religion all together. Even though, they had both been excommunicated, they were Christians and didn’t want their children to go without, so they sent the kids to the Lutheran church down the street because it was closest to the house.
     Now, the rebel gene is a strong one and recurs quite often in my family—it has yet to skip a generation. The next in line was my Grandma’s youngest daughter Maynard.
Before Uncle Joe
     Always a feisty, adventurous child, Maynard grew up tall and beautiful. She became a fashion model and was the pride of the family until she brought home Uncle Joe Shapiro. Don’t get me wrong, Uncle Joe was a well-to-do business owner and devilishly debonair. There was just one little problem in Grandma’s eyes, he was Jewish.
       I need to back up a moment because this is the clincher.  I don’t  see where Grandma's head was at, because she had first-hand experience with religious persecution in her early life, and one might have thought she would have understood. But history repeated itself, and Grandma threatened to disown her own daughter if she defied her and married a Jew.
      Maynard’s rebel gene kicked in and instead, she disowned her mother, converted to Judaism, and ran off and married Uncle Joe anyway. Grandma stomped her foot and temporarily disowned her back, but the feud didn’t last long.  Uncle Joe, the peacemaker, sent Grandma a round-trip ticket for a visit to their humble home in Beverly Hills.  
     While she was there, Grandma met her idol Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Uncle Joe and Aunt Maynard’s next door neighbor Frank Sinatra—they all shared a maid.  I guess that must have evened the score, because Grandma accepted Maynard and her Jewish husband back into the family with open arms. Aunt Maynard got the guy and the ring. (Don’t believe me? Google Bomber Shapiro, Nancy Sinatra writes about him in her memoir. Bomber was Uncle Joe and Aunt Maynard’s first child. His real name was Douglas after the WWII bomber. )
    Anyway, the rebel gene that resided in my grandparents and then my aunt in generations wound far more tightly than mine, was the family jewel that was genetically passed on to me to carry to our future clan. I think that it is essential to mention that though I was not the first child to make my grandmother grand, my father always told me that I was innately always her favorite.
     I have one more thing to say before I sign off. There was a slight mutation in the gene before it was passed on to me. The part about happily ever after was lopped off. However, that may have come from my mother’s side, but I am not sure. I don’t know Mom’s history since my  biological maternal Grandmother gave Mom up for adoption. I heard she never married. Ever. Hmm…..

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  1. Susan

    Fascinating family history. I am sorry that somehow your gene got mutated and has left you on the receiving end of being an asshole magnet. It is unfair. But hang in there.:)

  2. If more of your family got the gene, your family reunions would probably need referees.

  3. Ooh! Interesting family history. Almost glamorous. Mine is more coal mine-ish with a mutated gene that seems to pass on wide hips and a lot of other faulty things. Oh, and I feel ya on the ex with the personality disorder. Been there, done that. I think they should be forced to wear labels.

  4. Hey, I gave you an award on my blog. Hop on over and pick it up!

  5. Seriously, I could read your family anecdotes all night long!



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