James, I sat and pondered for awhile after reading this article [linked below]. Mixing the races has occurred here between Mexicans, Whites, Native Americans, the latter being who really are natives. We have been moving as a people for all our history. My cousins from The south were dark-skinned, black hair, Cherokee. My other cousins were red, and blonde, brown-headed. We noticed but it was never mentioned in hostile terms. We got along very well. In fact, I fought with the redhairs the most. We were proud of our ancestors, all of them. What is your view of your past families?
Ishmael, I come from four stocks that I know of, from most recent to most ancient in terms of their coming to North America. I am superstitious concerning my ancestry and have lately begun paying more attention to how I feel when I consider the bloodlines that converge in me.
Most recent are the Germans, named Kern who came in the 1870s to start up a pudding business. They were catholics leaving a protestant land for catholic Maryland. I do not feel any great attachment to this quarter of my family, being half of my mother's, money-grubbing people. The Kerns were very strict and would use physical punishment, but as a backup form of discipline, not the default.
This is the secodary aspect of my maternal line, strong and patriarchal.
The stern, acquisitive kraut in me is weak—a feeling of distance, seems to separate me from that branch, despite my admiration of the men I have learned from.
In 1901 came the English Roys, who were child orphans sold to French Canadians by the British government circa 1800. My beloved and wise grandmother LaFond, who beat cancer for 50 years and was very intelligent, forever fiercely hated the British for doing this to her ancestors. She told me stories about Elzear Roy. I identify strongly with this quarter of my family, who are artistic and bookish. Elzear was an herbalist and shipwright, whose best friend was an Indian named, Mister Short Step. The Roys never struck their children.
This is the dominant aspect of my paternal line.
The English orphan in me is strong, idea-oriented and angry.
The French LaFond's, who Alberta Roy married into, were kind, artistic folk, many of whom settled in Fall River Mass. Alberta came south from Canada as an infant of six months and married into the LaFond family there. The main branch of the LaFond family is more physical and is found mostly in the upper Mississippi basin in the U.S. I fought one of these lugs once, and he was made of much stronger stuff than I. The LaFonds were, I think, an older New World family than the Roys, but I do not know.
The LaFond quarter of my family is the biggest mystery to me as my grandfather died when I was six. He was a sign painter, a very kindly man who called Alberta "Roy," with a tender affection. He was not a physically strong man like the Kerns or Quaids of my maternal side.
This is the secondary aspect of my paternal line.
The LaFond's did not strike their children and I blindly but ardently feel my association like a haze sunk over my dream.
The Irish Quaids, originally McQuaids, came to Maryland in the mid 1600s as catholic Irish servants of the Anglo-Irish leaders of the colony. I think they settled in southern Maryland, engaged in servant-overseeing—good slaves that they were—did well and made their way to Baltimore Town and never left the accursed pit of their servitude. There was a smiling roughness to the Quaids which I never liked but which I inherited. My one Uncle Joe was a big, kind man. His five sisters had nice figures and married exceptional men who I learned a lot from.
This is the primary aspect of my maternal line, a family that moved genetically rather than geographically from its obediently frustrated Irish roots.
The Quaids beat their children and although I resent their lineage, I have a lingering sense of attachment that pervades my dream-life and is most frustratingly apparent in my irrational attachment to this damned place. I can literally feel my way around Baltimore—have always been able to, even as a small boy, felt the pull of places near but beyond my range when I was six—and have never been physically lost in this accursed place.
Relating this was a strange experience, Ishmael.
A Partial Exhumation of the American Dream