In Haiti, when you pour a glass of rum with your friends, you splash a little on the floor “for the ancestors.” Celebrating our ancestors reminds us of who we are and where we come from.
I have been in Florida for the last three days with my Aunt Betsy and Uncle Wayne. We have had ample time to talk…..over coffee, over Chardonnay, and over beer. I have noticed how much we have talked about those who have come before us – our ancestors.
They told me about my great Aunt Edna, a most generous woman who also drank a case of beer each week. Aunt Betsy and Uncle Wayne got pregnant with my cousin Jimmy when they were really young. Uncle Wayne, who would later become a biology professor, was a student at Duquesne time. They did not have much money. They rented an apartment from Aunt Edna, just above her, for $35 / month. When cousin Jimmy was born, Aunt Edna decreased the rent to $30, so they could save the other $5 for Jimmy. This is my family.
I was shocked that my Aunt Betsy, the oldest of 7 in the Knorr family, had never heard the Flexi-Flyer story. When my Pup-Pup, her Dad, was a little boy living on the South Side in Pittsburgh, he got a brand new wooden Flexi-Flyer sled for Christmas. He was ecstatic. The only rule from his mother was that he could not ride the sled down 18th Street. Now, if you know anything about the South Side of Pittsburgh, you know that 18th Street is by far the steepest and best hill around. So the first snow after Christmas came and he (of course) rode his brand new Flexi-Flyer down 18th St. with his buddies.
All was well and good until my Pup-Pup’s older sister, Lizzie, spotted him sledding down the forbidden road on her way home from work. You can imagine what comes next. Lizzie goes home and tells my great-grandmother about her discovery.
How does my great-grandmother, a strong German woman, react? She confiscates the sled, and chops it into pieces with an ax. As if losing his sled was not punishment enough, my great-grandmother puts the remains of the sled in front of the house for trash day, in plain sight for all of my Pup-Pup’s friends.
I could write many more stories about the ancestors. For now, pour yourself a Manhattan, or a beer or your favorite libation, splash a little on the floor, gather your family and friends, and tell some stories. Aside from each other, they are all we have.