Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Runs in the Family

 My Grandma Hartke with my dad's older brother, Eric.

"Our family moves around a lot," I told the girls when they got in the car after school, both of them thirsty and with low blood sugar as they always are at 3 o'clock.

Because I too had read the New York Times article,and because Elizabeth had mentioned something similar on her blog, I told them a story to stave off their bad moods, these tiny monsters I fight every day at three.

I told them about their grandmother, my mom, who moved with only her mother from Pennsylvania to Colorado at just three-years-old. They rolled the windows down. Outside the day was a riot of color, but they were listening. I told them about my dad's mother, raised on farm in Kansas, one of six girls, who moved to Colorado as a young woman.

They began to chirp in the pieces they knew.

Daddy moved from California, they said. And grammy. And grandpa moved from England?

I think Grandpa was born in Massachusetts, I told them. And Dede was born in Chicago but he moved to California. His parents moved here from Czechoslovakia. (That's what it was called when they left it).

Then I told them about my father's great-grandmother, who stowed away on a ship from Sweden as a teenager and found herself married to a deputy of Wild Bill Hickock on the prairie frontier, where she gave birth to thirteen children and buried eleven of them. The many-greats grandfather who came from Sweden to fight in the Civil War but found the war was over when he got here, possibly ensuring my daughter's own births all these years later.

"And then we moved," Ayla said. "From Colorado to North Carolina."

"That's right," I said. I don't know if it means anything. I just know that in this context, we, all of us, began to make more sense.

We aren't outliers. We are people of our own particular blood.

Comforted, we went about our afternoon.


  1. Context can be everything, can't it?

  2. "Comforted, we went about our afternoon."
    Yes. That about sums it up, I believe.
    Your uncle's name is Eric Erickson?

    1. You are sharp! Yep. It was Eric Erickson. Like that Garrison Keillor song with Carl Carlson and and Lars Larson. Or maybe I made that up?

  3. A friend of mine sent me this gorgeous article about writing and home and place and California by Marisa Silver. Have you read Silver's novel "The God of War?" I think you'd love it. Until then, here's the link to the article:

    1. I have not read the book or the article. Thank you!

  4. It's a clue how intently our kids listen to the family stories, how much they matter to them. Comforted. Yes.

  5. I do believe I need to start sharing these kinds of stories. I'd always assumed the kids (and BOYS at that) wouldn't be interested. I stand corrected. Beautiful imagery & wording as always, you poet.

  6. I, too, always wonder at whether my stories are "worth" sharing. Sometimes I don't find my own stories interesting. But putting everything together like this, well, it is.

    And yes, poetry, as always.


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