For the Ancestors

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.

 Family Classic.

 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.

 

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5 thoughts on “For the Ancestors

  1. Coming from a family of many ancestors, I found this especially touching. I worry that my nieces and nephews don’t care as much about their history.

  2. Love it Amy!!! When I was at Duquesne (another Family Classic) I had to write a fable for a Children’s Literature class. It of course seemed fitting to turn Puppup into a dog and off I wrote about the Flexi-Flyer! What a special time you had with Aunt Betsy and Uncle Wayne! Love you!

  3. What a great story, Amy. I have heard it many times and have repeated to my boys and my grandsons. In 2000, when Kristy and Shannon got married, I drove Mum-Mum to and from Connecticut twice that summer. Not only did we get to be part of the pre-wedding activities for a week, we had eight hours of uninterupted travel time up and back on both trips. Beside the rosaries that we prayed, we talked and talked and talked. I learned much history of both the Knorr and Dower families. It is a time I will treasure always. Love you and keep writing.

  4. Dear Amy,
    We really enjoyed the special time we shared with you in Florida reminising about the family.
    There are so many stories to tell about your ancestors that lie dormant in all of us. It takes a special person like yourself to engage us to remember the past. Thank you again for the painting, it will be a special reminder of our time together ln Florida.
    Love and best wishes.

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