Tag Archive: stories


Family (New Mexico)

Beatrice had a cart that she pushed from town to town in Russia, trading and selling goods to make a living. Being nomadic already (like me!), she was well-prepared to make tracks for a new life elsewhere when the revolution started brewing. But in one town on her way east a man named Jacob saw her, caught up with her on the road, then asked her to marry him. She said yes. Jacob took his new wife to Canada, where they got married and had three children. Jacob sold men’s clothing, and one day a man from the old country walked into his store. They talked about places and people they’d known, then the man asked to have an overcoat Jacob had for sale. Jacob said he was running a business, he couldn’t just give it away. The man said if he didn’t give it to him, that he would ruin his life, but Jacob refused. Next the man went to Jacob’s home, where he found Beatrice and told her that Jacob was still legally married to a wife in the old country, and thus their marriage was illegal and her children were all bastards. Jacob came home that day to find all the belongings that Beatrice considered his out on the front porch, and indeed he never recovered.

I’m in New Mexico now with my aunt Silva, hearing stories from my mother’s side. Silva moved down to this beautiful place three years ago to build a life with her wife Amber, who is from here. Again, we’ve had less contact over the years than other families might have had, but those rare occasions we do get to connect are always a pleasure. I’m really happy to get to see them and their new home.

Amber and the cottonwoods

It’s stunning here. The arroyos are packed with Cottonwoods, and I’ve arrived just as they all turn flaming yellow. The cliffs are deep red, and the air smells incredible. It’s not so good for my poor little van though; apparently diesels don’t do so well in the high altitude. Even on flat it struggles to accelerate to city driving speeds, and as it does black smoke spews out the tailpipe, dirtying the beautiful New Mexico air.

 

 

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Family (Oklahoma)

Loumen lost both of his parents when he was still very young. But a spare set of hands was a valuable thing on a farm, so his neighbors took him in and raised him to work. When the Civil War broke out he left the farm to fight for the North. At the end of the war he marched to Washington DC for the three-day victory parade, and after that he walked back home to marry his sweetheart from the farm. They had a daughter named Juliana, my great grandmother.

Ducalian was from Alabama, but at some point decided to move, with his family and slaves, to Texas. On the journey his wife became ill, and died. Duke told his children and slaves to stay put where they were, and went back home. He married his old neighbour Martha, and off they went to catch up with the others and continue on to Texas. Duke and Martha had 4 children, one of whom was Richard, my great-grandfather.

Clifford, Darrell, Daisy

Richard and Juliana came to Oklahoma because it was the newest state, and land parcels were being given free to those willing to farm them. They had ten children together, including my grandfather Roscoe.

I didn’t know any of this until yesterday, when I arrived in Oklahoma City and met my second cousin Darrell for the first time. He welcomed me into his house with real joy, sat me down, and we started telling each other stories. Today we had lunch with Clifford and Daisy, more second cousins who were equally delighted to meet me, and who gave me Roscoe’s old harmonica. Later I met Sue, who had the shiniest eyes I’ve ever seen, and who gave me the tightest hug. Darrell and I drove out to the land that Roscoe lived on, and we saw the teeny little windblown graveyard where he’s buried right next to his parents, and just a few stones over from Duke and Martha, my great-great-grandparents.

A whole new branch of family and history, it’s a really amazing thing. When we said our goodbyes Darrell told me he loved me, and I said I loved him, and we meant it.