Tag Archives: Roots

Strong

Being a woman today is so much better than being a woman was.  There is still a way to go though but I am not going to spend my time today talking about how women still need equal pay or how women still have to fight stereotypes at places like car dealerships.  It’s frustrating to me though.  Maybe it’s because of my upbringing.

I grew up in a very Irish Catholic family.  In our family, while the men were very intelligent and worked very hard to provide for the family, the women had a very silent strength.  At least, that’s how it always appeared to me.  From my Nana, to my Mother, to my Mother’s aunts, there were so many women who were strong in their own way.  It was almost like the stereotypical Irish matriarch.  The woman who is really quietly in charge, making sure that the family functioned and did what it needed to do.

strong women

When I think about the type of woman I strive every day to be, it is a woman who possesses that silent strength.  I want to make every day productive.  I want to face any adversity with quiet strength.  I may not always be successful but I want to at least try.  I want to raise my child and any other children that the future may hold for me with kindness, compassion, and a sense that they have a duty to help those in need in whatever way they can.  I want to take steps that, while  scary, can be groundbreaking.  I want to achieve some kind of good in this world.

For me, that’s going back to my roots.  That is going back to where I come from.  That is going back to the women who raised me.

Today’s post is part of the June 2013 NaBloPoMo.  The theme this month is “Roots.”  Today’s prompt was: What does getting back to your roots look like to you?

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The Frogfaces

You know how siblings like to really give each other a grief unlike no other, well  having three younger brothers, I was no different.  Between me and Brother 3, there is a 10 year gap.  He was an easy target for the ribbing of his older siblings.  While I could go back generations and tell a tale of my ancestors, this “family history” is probably one that still makes everyone in our immediate family cry with laughter.

When Brother 3 was about four or five years old, he asked us why he had blonde hair and we, his older brothers and sister, had brown hair.  Without a missing a beat, Brother 1 told him that it was because he was a frogface. The three of us (Brothers 1 and 2 and myself) then continued to weave a tale of lies that, to this day, still can make any one of us cease to be upset.  The story went as follows:

There once was a family of Frogfaces.  They were like people but they had frog faces.  They had three children who were perfectly alike, complete with bug eyes and wide mouths.  They ate flies and lived on the shores near the lake where they enjoyed a lazy frogface life.

One day, their lives were changed, when they had a fourth child.  This child was nothing like the other three.  This child was a frogface but did not have the same features as the other members of his family.  He looked more human. The Frogfaces were horrified that such a child was theirs.  They didn’t know what to do.

What frogface babies should look like

What frogface babies should look like

They watched the families who came to the lake to swim.  Day in and day out, families would come and swim and the Frogfaces would watch how happy they all seemed.  Then they realized that their newest son looked like them and could probably pass off as one of them.  That is when the Frogfaces decided to choose a family to give their child too.

After weeks of watching they selected a family, our family.  They showed up at our door with the frogface baby and our parents felt sorry for it so they took it in and raised it as their own.  And that is how we came to have a frogface for a brother.

Well, little did we realize, being wicked and cruel older siblings, that Brother 3 would believe every single word of it.  It probably didn’t help that we kept reminding him that he was a frogface time and time again.

What we also didn’t realize is the number of people he would tell this to.  He told his pre-school teacher.  He told family friends. But the worst, was our parish priest.  He was a close family friend and would often come to dinner at our house.  At one of these dinners, Brother 3 announced that he wasn’t really one of us and continued to recount the entire Frogface saga.

During the retelling of this grand story, because I have to admit, I was quite proud of myself and my brothers for concocting such an elaborate story, a small part of me began to feel twinges of guilt.  It also didn’t help that the three masterminds who came up with the story were getting sideways glances not only from our parents and their friends, but also our priest.  Oh Catholic guilt…

Needless to say, they broke the enchantment we had placed on our youngest brother and told him that he was in fact a human and very much our real brother.

Every now and again, though, we all feel the urge to remind him that once upon a time, a distraught mother and father frogface begged us to take in their poor ugly frogface baby…

This post is part of the June NaBloPoMo.  This month’s theme is “Roots.”  Today’s prompt was “Tell us a story from your family history.”

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What’s In A Name

Many people have family names.  Brother 1 had the luck of being the fourth to share the same name in the family.  He always said that when he has his first son, that child will be the fifth.  I did not get officially named after anyone.  My mother wanted to name me Elizabeth however, my father wanted to name me Katherine, possibly after his sister, I’m not totally sure.  My mother did not really want that so rather than me being Katherine, she wrote down Catherine.  There hadn’t been any Catherine’s on her side of the family in recent history so it was a name all my own.  On my father’s side, there was my aunt and me (despite the spelling difference which I think some people still forget about).

Catherine

As a kid, spelling Catherine took forever to learn.  I had to come up with a mnemonic device to remember all nine letters.  “Cat – her – in with an e”  was what I had to say in order to remember it all.  Thankfully, my mom insisted on calling me Cathy.  It was much easier to spell at least until the 8th grade when I had a total identity crisis.  All of a sudden I was tired of spelling my name Cathy and tried to convince everyone that I was now Cathie.  For some reason, I felt that had more personality and that name was more true to who I was. It was a bit ridiculous though because after I got everyone I knew (except my Mom) to use the new spelling, I decided that I didn’t want to use it anymore.

Besides, Cathy with a 'y' is way cooler...

Besides, Cathy with a ‘y’ is way cooler…

It took some time for me to not hate the name Catherine.  It was just so proper and felt like such a grown up name.  Now that I am a grownup (technically in age only), I appreciate my name.  I have a grownup name, nicknames, and I feel like it suits me now.  I feel like I can handle the strength that comes with that name.

This post is part of the June NaBloPoMo.  The theme this month is “Roots.” Today’s prompt was “Are you named after someone on your family tree?  Tell us about that person.”

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The Branches of the Tree

I have always loved history.  If I hadn’t been an English Major, I probably would have studied some kind of history.  The thought of how generations of people before in some way shaped who I am because they shaped the people who shaped me…do you follow me?

Watching Downton Abbey, I sometimes find it fascinating.  My Nana was born in 1920.  Her mother would have been the same age as Lady Mary, maybe a little older and living in America.  But still.  To think about the Great Jazz age and how she lived during that time, I can’t help but wonder what that must have been like.

jazz

Then go back one more generation to her parents who worked in the mills of Fall River.  What a life that must have been!  Looking at the family bible, you can see the children who died from illness, the people who didn’t see their 50th birthday because things were just that hard.  Life wasn’t easy. Yet, they were able to shape their children and raise their children in a way that was handed down in some form or another to me.

Going back another step, Canada during the early 1800s – what was that like?  The War of 1812 – which side did they fight on?  Were they even there?  Or were they in France? What about the in-laws who were in Ireland.  What were they doing then?  What about my Polish ancestors?  What were they doing in Poland, had they always been in Poland or did they come from somewhere else in Europe?  Then there are the Italian relatives – how long were they in Italy.  Can they be traced back to Ancient Rome?

Genealogy is a puzzle that reads like an exciting biography.  Kind of a choose your own adventure type of book.  You start out with the corner pieces of the puzzle but as you search and look for more puzzle pieces, this amazing story starts to unfold with each new piece.  A new character introduced, a new story line added.  It’s more than fascinating because when you get the character you then look at the setting.  Where are these distant relatives located in history?  What events did they live through.  Were they involved in those events?

genealogy far side

I am glad that the Husband has been slowly chipping away at the Daughter’s family tree.  He has found some interesting things and it is really amazing how connected everyone is!  Hopefully the Daughter will someday find it as interesting as I do!

This post is part of the June NaBloPoMo.  This month’s theme is Roots.  Today’s prompt was: Are you interested in genealogy?  Do you have a family tree constructed?

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I am an Irish Princess

When I was young, maybe 8 or 9, my paternal grandmother told me that I was an Irish princess.  She told me that somewhere in Ireland was a castle that bore the name of my ancestors, Cahir Castle.

Cahir Castle

Cahir Castle

I remember telling my friends at school that my grandma told me I was an Irish princess and yes, they laughed their little third grade faces off at me.  I was devastated.  But as I grew up, I realized that almost everyone in my area of the world can trace some of their lineage back to Ireland and almost all of them can link themselves to a castle or the ruins of a castle in Ireland.  Didn’t matter.  Some days, I still tell myself that I’m an Irish princess.

My aunt (my mother’s sister) was so proud of her Irish roots.  She also had once endeavored to do a family tree of my maternal grandmother’s family.  She got pretty far back, I want to say something like 8 generations and ended up with relatives in France and Ireland.

My mother’s aunt (my grandfather’s sister) did a family tree of my maternal grandfather’s side and she went back to her grandparents but not too much further than that.

When our daughter was about two, maybe three, the Husband decided he wanted the Daughter to see where she came from.  I knew that my own heritage was pretty straight forward.  Irish, Polish, and Italian.  The Husband was more of a mix though.

He signed up for Ancestry.com and began to not only do his own family tree but also did a lot of mine.  It was fascinating the things that he found.  Records from churches, towns, all of the things they say you find on the commercials.  It was pretty cool though.

He traced my family back as far as their countries of origin.  Then, because the international version of Ancestry.com is that much more expensive, he stopped.  On my father’s side, my grandfather’s parents, my great-grandfather came from Poland and my great-grandmother came from Italy. That makes me third generation American on that line.

He didn’t find out too much about my father’s mother’s family and since my father hasn’t said a word to me in over twenty years, I don’t know that I will ever get any of that information.

My mother’s mother’s family was interesting.  There were things that my aunt had found and my Husband found also that said that half of the family was French.  My aunt got back almost 8 generations into France before they came to Quebec and then moved to Fall River to work in the factories during the industrial revolution.  Then the rest were all Irish. I am not quite sure of how far back this line went but I know it went pretty far.

family tree

The family bible from my mother’s grandmother also contains a ton of documents that go back pretty far.  The handwriting is still fairly legible and contains all kinds of dates: marriages, births, deaths.  There are tin photos in there too of men and women with stern looks on their faces.  I still don’t quite understand why people didn’t smile then.  It’s interesting to piece together these small snippets of my ancestors and to discover what is out there linking me to the past.

I can’t wait to keep chipping away at this mystery of where our family came from.  A princess needs to know these kinds of things!

This post was written as part of the June NaBloPoMo.  This month’s theme is Roots.  Today’s prompt was “How many generations can you go back in your family?  What do you know about your oldest ancestors?”

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