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4 kittens

Smashed bugs or pig snouts

Posted on 2015.03.29 at 21:25
This weekend was Geebie Family Day Weekend.

We planted cheerios and harvested doughnuts, per tradition.

We played on the Blanco river and I even took a stern selfie:

This year, I ordered coozies for the party:

Great fun!

The weekend was tiring fun, and then we packed up and went home to campaign for our friend who is running for the local school board. Now we are all very tired and the kids smell like ferrets.

Geebie Family Days of the future:

I'm very intrigued by the idea that our kids will get older. Hawaii and Hokey Pokey are old enough to do activities that I also enjoy; my hypothesis is that Ace and Rascal will also get older each year.  I like to think about life when they are all verbal and potty-trained.  (Specifically: we should head out to the house on Thursday evening, and spend Friday doing vacationy day-trip things. Then spend Saturday morning getting ready for the party on Saturday afternoon.)

When I turn 40, Rascal will be 3. Flying and travelling will be a breeze. I want to take a big trip to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, then, with my family and parents.  That is my fantasy. (The nature of my nightmares: that the Heebie U library will be re-modeled, and all the 1960s calm, serene beauty will be destroyed. My nightmares and fantasies are both extremely grounded and probable.)

My parents met my Mom's new cousin, who I've been calling Eli.

Break: I need to meta-rehearse. This story has gotten so big and complicated that I'm not very good at telling it. I think if I write it out, it will crystallize in my mind. So humor me (or scroll past, or click away) while I write the whole thing out, from the beginning.

1. My grandfather, M. Aaron, was extremely secretive about his family of origin. All my mom and her brothers knew was that he was from upstate New York, his dad was a lay pastor, there were no books in the house besides the Bible, and he left at age 12 because they wouldn't let him go to high school.

2. My mom and her brothers pestered him endlessly about his past, but he wouldn't budge. They never met any of his family. At one point he wrote out a family tree for my mother, but she'd never been able to locate any of the people.  M. Aaron died in 1981.

3. Then 33 years passed.

4. CharleyCarp was showing off his mad internet skills, and so I gave him the mystery of my grandfather to work on - which little upstate town? Any relatives? That kind of thing.

5. After an hour, he says, "Your grandfather changed his identity. See, here's an article claiming that Max Weitzman is filing for a name change to M. Aaron. The specific job and everything lines up."  Charley starts producing more and more information about this Max Weitzman - "Your grandfather was a Jewish kid from Manhattan" - but I don't yet believe it.

6. He asks about the weird article we'd found a few years earlier, claiming my grandfather and grandmother Bea were getting divorced.   He goes hunting, and it appears Max married a Bea, and then divorced that Bea and married a different Bea, my grandmother.  The identity change seems to happen while married to the first Bea.

7. Finally Charley finds some high school yearbook photos of M. Aaron, and this is Indescribable Moment #1: Seeing my grandfather, age 13, in a photo labeled Max Weitzman.

[I should not include the telling to my mother and the angst and discussions. I feel like steps 1-7 should be streamlined in the telling, but it all seems irreducibly important. Hmmm.]

8. At this point, we have four mysteries:
- Why did he change his identity?
- Why was he estranged from his family? [Ie the original mystery]
- Did my grandmother know about Bea 1?
- Did my grandmother know about the secret family?

9. Shortley thereafter, my grandmother turns 97 and my parents go visit. Unfortunately, she is too senile at this point to field any questions. That ship has sailed. But the burden of boxes and boxes of files are now tantalizing piles of clues.

10. My mom unearthes a giant stack of letters from M. Aaron's and Bea 2's early years. There are lots of phrases like "Can you sneak away?" and "I long to hold you." and "our love is so strong, that even though she'll get the car and we'll be totes broke, it'll be the best."  So that question is settled: Bea 2 knew of Bea 1, and they overlapped.

[and in fact, their love did sustain them through the Depression and for fifty years. It was a love for the ages. But again, omit from the streamlined version. Also omit: all the scheming details about dropping off letters with other family members and general sneakiness.]

11. Remaning questions:
- Why the identity change?
- the original mystery of the  estrangement,
- whether Bea 2 knew about the identity change.

12. Over winter break, we decide: it's time to contact Max Weitzman's sister's kid, ie my mom's cousin. A doctor living in Mobile.  We gnash our teeth and try to plan the phone call - we need to sound convincing that he does in fact have a long-lost cousin, and that it's not a scam. "Say his mother's name!" we tell my mom, who will make the call. "Sound certain! Use the name Max Weitzman and not M. Aaron."

She leaves a message on his answering machine.

[This is the narrative peak, no? This is the moment to drag out and take a deep breath.]

Ten minutes later, her phone rings, and says the call is from Mobile. My mom puts it on Speakerphone and we all gather around. "Hello?" she says, "This is C. Geebie."
"C!" exclaims the other voice, "You're Uncle Aaron's daughter! We loved Uncle Aaron!"

This is Indescribable Moment #2.

Cousin Eli, the doctor in Mobile, continued, "We saw him all the time - maybe 2-3 times a year? He was in my wedding. Wonderful guy."  Cousin Eli knew the rough life outline of my mom and her brothers. "You live in Florida, you were a psychologist! You live in Wisconsin, the other one is in Dallas. Uncle Aaron showed us photos and told us all about you."

He knew everything. There was no estrangement whatsoever - just an utter separation of his family of origin from his own family.

13. I really don't know how to make sense of this revelation, that M. Aaron stayed close with them, but erected a Berlin Wall between the two halves of his life.  This strikes me as so deeply sad.

14. Now in March, my parents drive to Mobile and meet Eli and his wife. They are lovely. Eli's theory was that M. Aaron had kept the families separate because Bea 2 was anti-semitic, and that theory falls apart because Bea 2 is also Jewish. Eli's new theory is that he kept them apart because his mother was awful, malevolent, controlling, critical, and so on.

15.  My grandmother, Bea 2, probably met his family. She sent them photos, wrote their names in her handwriting. She knew he was in touch with them. But she didn't notify them when he died. They called in a panic, when they hadn't heard from him in 6 months.

16. So we don't really have answers. We don't really know why he kept this gigantic secret from his kids. We don't really know why he couldn't change his identity more openly, so to speak, the way my dad's side did. We don't know why my grandma kept this secret for 30 years after his death, nor why Eli did.

17. Most of his ficticious details seem to be lifted from Bea 1's hometown and life. She was not Jewish and was from upstate New York.

Meta-analysis: This exercised has revealed that I'm not willing to streamline the story very much. I shouldn't tell it unless the mood of the group  is not rushed, leisurely, ready for an intricate mystery. It's a hard story to hear, because there's a lot of people to keep track of. If the audience isn't going to actively engage, it's not worth telling. Oh well.

This year's weekend rental house had all the trappings of aspirational wealth and then just plain Texas or country.

I think I'm supposed to say "bless their heart" darkly.

Ugly is as ugly does.

"...but not with His stylish sense of interior decorating!"

This bed was so tall that the ceiling seemed oddly close, almost like a visceral childhood memory of bunk beds. Like thinking, "those fan blades are close..."

"Hey good buddy, you like this house?"
"Negative, good buddy, negative!"

I really did enjoy the house. The kitchen was spacious and shiny, the view was glamorous, and so on. I just am prone to be judgmental about interior decorating that smacks of aspirational wealth plus imploring me to try out Jesus.


(Anonymous) at 2015-03-30 12:40 (UTC) (Link)

I Am (Still) Not Anonymous

Your grandfather's story is so puzzling. I keep wanting there to be some explanation.

And that bed. WtF.

It's like your life has suddenly become a Kafka novel.

(me, delagar)
heebie_geebie at 2015-04-06 02:43 (UTC) (Link)

Re: I Am (Still) Not Anonymous

That must be it! The bed is roomy enough to sleep a transformed character underneath.

Actually, the other day at xfit - where there are always tons of bugs and beetles, because it's a warehouse - one of the trainers said something like, "How weird would it be if you woke up one day and you were a beetle?"

I did not bother to put on my professor hat and explain about the LARGE BIT OF LITERATURE he had unwittingly tapped.
(Anonymous) at 2015-03-31 01:16 (UTC) (Link)

That Bed is Ridiculous

That bed is ridiculous. Was there a stepladder to get in?
heebie_geebie at 2015-04-06 02:40 (UTC) (Link)

Re: That Bed is Ridiculous

It was SO ridiculous. So ridiculous that when the big kids climbed up and were wrestling around, I was sort of concerned about the long fall onto concrete. From a bed.
mistersmearcase at 2015-04-01 06:41 (UTC) (Link)
I haven't totally followed the whole crazy thing, but it seems like you could write a pretty interesting book about it. Only probably your family would not be too keen on that.
(Anonymous) at 2015-04-01 21:34 (UTC) (Link)
Or, maybe one of those story-telling things, like The Moth? It does seem like a story you should be able to do something with.

heebie_geebie at 2015-04-06 02:40 (UTC) (Link)
I should do something, but I'm stuck on the fact that it's a rather hard story to keep track of, because of so-n-so's sister and mother and different names, and different people with the same names, and so on. It's a hard story to tell.
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