Keeping Family History Alive for an Only Child

Family History

With an only child, keeping family history alive is so important. Daisy is the heir apparent to all our collective memories, so I try to take as many photos, write as many stories and letters, and tape as much video as I can. My father’s parents died shortly after I finished college, but my mother’s parents lived on into their 80s and 90s. I had grand ideas of taping my Grandpa Sidney as he talked about his life growing up in Brooklyn, or my Grandma Fudgie recalling her peripatetic childhood — her parents were both actors in the Yiddish theater. I never got around to doing it, and before I knew it my grandfather was struggling with dementia and my grandmother was battling ovarian cancer and the effects of lifelong diabetes. When my grandparents died, so did their memories and stories. I won’t make the same mistake with my own parents. I plan to interview them, and write down their stories and memories before they too become lost to the wind.

I took some of my family history, a story that has been handed down along my mother’s side, and blended it with a bit of fiction to create this tale for Daisy:

Russian Rose

Many years ago, in eighteen-eighty-five,
Your ancestors were healthy, well and alive.
Living in Berezovka, near the Black Sea,
It’s hard to pronounce, it’s tricky, that ‘z!’

The Jews were storekeepers, butchers and bakers,
They were bookkeepers, bankers and jewelry-makers.
In narrow streets children played, they sang and danced
Throwing balls, rolling hoops, they’d gallop and prance.

And here a small child, dear Rose like a flower
Blossomed and bloomed as if in a bower.
When finally of age to wed a young lad,
Her parents looked around, as then was the fad

To arrange a marriage was the parent’s right
And then throw a party lasting all night.
The chosen groom lived many miles away,
So on that warm bright sunny day,

The boy and his family settled into their carriage
Their last ride together before the boy’s marriage.
Alongside the fields, over a ridge
They neared the river, started over the bridge

How could they know, how could they see
That the wood was all rotten, and riddled with fleas?
The weight of their carriage made the bridge creak,
Then finally break, with a high pitched squeak!

The groom and his parents, on this fine day
Went into the water, and were swept away.
Back in the village, the bride sat and hummed
Musicians were practicing, the guitarist strummed

They waited til noon, now four hours late
Where’s young Leon, has he met some bad fate?
A small search party took off towards the east
Rose’s father exclaimed, “There will still be a feast

We suspect that Leon has faltered or worse
But this day won’t succumb to a possible curse.
Come all young men of the village, come close
Who among you will marry my Rose?”

There was in this town a handsome young boy,
Who went by the name of Solomon Slepoi.
He worked for his father, he had much hope
To earn a good living making his soap.

“His soap is quite special you really must try it”
Whispered his father, as they were told to be quiet
Solomon stood tall, he showed his bright smile
He felt rather nervous, yet after a while

He caught Rose’s eye, she looked at him long
He winked, then whistled his favorite song
“Come along Rose, come along with me
We’ll make our home by the Black Sea.”

Rose’s father came between them, he broke their connection,
Their faces fell, who would he pick, then?
“My dear little Rose, I trust her young heart
We’ve made our choice, let the party start!

Solomon my boy, you’re lucky this day
My daughter you’ll wed, and then we’ll all pray
For your love and well-being, may you be happy ever
As you start to make a life together.”

The two were married and happily settled
Into the village, which was called a Shtetl.
They’d whirl and twirl all morning long
Solomon singing his favorite song:

“Come along Rose, come along with me
We’ll tend our garden by the Black Sea.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Dana “Dee” Pilson

Dee lives with her professor husband and young daughter in rural Pownal, Vermont, just over the state line from Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an art historian and has worked in museums in New York City, Boston, and Williamstown. She has been an avid writer since the tender age of eight, filling journals with personal essays and short stories, as well as mounds of poetry, both serious and whimsical. New Yorker by birth, New Hampshire-ite by schooling, and now Vermonter by choice, Dee writes about art and architecture, the environment, books, food, exercise, travel, and green living. Her new blog, “The Power of One,” focuses on issues related to parenting an only child in today’s child-centric world. dpilson@aol.com

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