Thursday, July 31, 2008

From Whence I Came or Alpha

For about the past twenty years, I have periodically immersed myself in family genealogy. I began with notes I took from my paternal grandfather when I was in high school. I had the names of his parents and his grandmother, as well as my paternal grandmother's parents. Also, they both gave me names of their siblings. Most of these names were familiar to me, as I heard my grandparents talking about family members over the years. I found out a book had been published about my grandmother's paternal ancestors, so I went first to the Armstrong County Library and copied all the book pages. (It took forever!).

As I began to trace my grandmother's family, I soon discovered that my grandmother and my grandfather were the descendants of the same couple who came to America in 1731 from The Palatinate in Germany. They were of the Dunkard faith. Needless to say, the blood connection between my grandparents goes back many generations and so I cannot blame my sometime weirdness on that!

As I gradually searched out more and more, I found that on my father's side, most of the ancestors came from The Palatinate in Germany, all around the same time. There were a few Irish ancestors, as well, and my surname comes from one of them.

The Dunkards were an Anabaptist sect, closely related in faith and nationality to the Amish. So I could just as easily have been Amish. I don't think I would have remained welcome in their community, though, and would have been shunned early on.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Huh? I was what?

Recently, a childhood friend unexpectedly passed away at the age of sixty after receiving a bee sting. This friend who I babysat when I was a teen (well, it was more babysitting his younger brother and sister), grew up to become a real mover and shaker in the community. He was a happy soul, with a big smile for everyone he met through the course of a day.

When I visited the funeral home, I was speaking with his younger brother who I hadn't seen for probably forty years. He said, "Suellen? This is Suellen, the wild and crazy one?" I said, "Huh?" To say I was surprised at his comment would be an understatement. I don't recall being wild or crazy. Maybe just a little off-the-wall, but certainly not crazy. Wild? Maybe when I ran, which I did everywhere I went, with hair flying and feet scarcely touching the ground. (I was a FAST sprinter, but that's another story.) This started me thinking about what I thought of myself when I was young, as opposed to what others thought of me.

I recall being very sensitive, very concerned about what others thought of me, at least most of the time. I was also extremely modest. Very shy with boys, painfully so. Swearing, drinking and smoking were not part of my life, either. Drugs were unheard of then, except in New York City according to my health teacher. My physical self-image wasn't that great, either, mostly because of my coke-bottle-bottom glasses. (That didn't change until my first pair of hard contact lenses when I was twenty-three. Contact lenses were the latest technology in ophthalmology at the time.)

So why would anyone think I was wild and crazy? I recall when I was editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook planning a "record hop" with the yearbook staff members. Because our high school was smaller than surrounding schools, I knew we needed a hook to get people to come from surrounding areas. We made posters which said, "Come and hear "so-and so" sing "such and such" and posted them everywhere. To me, I was aware that there was a catch there -- I knew at some level that people would automatically substitute "see" for "hear", but I brushed that off because of the potential financial success of the dance.

The night of the dance came and the gym filled up fast, most of the kids from our school and loads of kids from neighboring schools. We were ecstatic -- until people started asked where "so-and-so" was. It was beginning to get a little uncomfortable. So I grabbed a most unlikely overweight and nerdy kid who was on the yearbook staff and coaxed him to lip-sync the song. I knew he had a crush on me, so I guess I took advantage of that. He practiced the song in the library. Now the actual recording artist didn't bear any resemblance to our substitute, so when he was introduced and came out on stage and began to lip-synch the song, the booing started and the gym emptied fast. People were angry. I was embarrassed. Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson about advertising that night.

Other than the way I used to boss my brother around, I cannot recall anything else crazy I did. I will think about it some more, though.

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