Sunday, May 27, 2012

Remebering

The Native Americans are known for their oral histories, telling the stories of the tribe from one generation to the next.  Recently, my mom's cousin asked me if, in my genealogy research, I had found any information about our Native Indian ancestry.  To this point, I have not, but I think that there must be some there.  My mother's family is French Canadian, and it is widely accepted that there was inter-marrying between the French-Canadians and the Indians.  Even without proof, I think it must be true because of my love for family history.

Each year, for Memorial Day, we visit the cemeteries.  This year, while technically no different, is much different.  This year, we said good-bye to my great-Aunt Millie, who was the last surviving of my grandfather's eight siblings.  Six weeks after that, we said good-bye to my grandmother.  Mimere and Aunt Millie were the last of their generation, the Greatest Generation. The cemetery visits this year meant going without my grandmother, but also seeing two new names.  It was hard.
Mimere, Aunt Millie and Aunt Mae in 2005.  Aunt Mae passed away in Oct 2006.  

My kids come with my mom and I to the cemetery now.  Jake has been coming the last few years, and I think this is Sophia's second year.  Every year, we go through the stories, making the same comments.  But now, we're telling my kids where they come from.  Helping to impart the wisdom (hopefully) that years of hard work has brought.  Hoping to enlighten them as to how luck they are as to live in this age with this technology, with their health.  My grandfather (who we called Pipere) was one of nine children born to very poor parents.  Only 7 of the 9 survived childhood, which, considering the times and the poverty level, is pretty amazing.  We visit all nine graves (8 of which are in St. Joseph's in Waterford).  We visit some other relatives and good family friends as well, who happen to be located near our family members.  My grandfather and uncle poured the cement into crosses in their basement on Hamilton Street for the markers for the 2 boys who did not survive childhood.  They do not have the names on them, but we think we know which one is which.  There was no money for headstones.

One of the confusing things about my grandfather's family, besides the number of players, is the names.  All had given names, but at least half went by some other name.  Sometimes it was a middle name, sometimes it was just a random name.  Confusing nonetheless.  We visit my mother's Mimere and Pipere, my great-grandparents.  Rosario O. Morris and Rose Biette Morris.  Their children (and spouses, if appropriate) were:

  • Rosario ("Boy") Morris.  Buried in St. Joseph's.  Grave is marked by a homemade white cement cross. No name is on it. Died at the age of 12.  He was burned by hot water (I think while making tea), and the burns got infected.  
  • Mary R. ("Rosella") Morris and Mitchell Gagnon.  Buried in St. Joseph's.  They share a grave with Aunt Mae and Uncle Earl.  I believe some of their great-grandchildren (stillborn) are also with them.
  • Genevieve and Ephraim ("Pete") Fredette.  Buried in St. Joseph's.
  • Edna Flora ("Mae") Morris and Francis Earl ("Earl") White.  Buried in St. Joseph's with Aunt Rosella and Uncle Mitch.  Even in death, Aunt Mae never got away from her sisters.
  • Edward G. Morris and Dorothy Slavin Morris.  Buried in Memory Garden.  They bought the plot from a neighbor on the street who was selling them in 1966.  At that time, my grandmother would not have been able to be buried in St. Joseph's, as she was not Catholic.
  • Mildred M. Morris and Leo ("Chick") Fredette.  Buried in St. Joseph's.  Aunt Millie and Pipere were twins.  They were born on February 22, George Washington's birthday.  As such, their middle names are George and Martha. It was hard seeing Aunt Millie's name etched in stone today.
  • Leo and Patricia Morris.  Buried in St. Joseph's.
  • Amos Morris.   Buried in St. Joseph's.  Grave is marked by a homemade white cement cross. Died at 3 months old.  We don't know why.  
  • Margaret Morris and Victor A. Bouchard.  Buried in St. Joseph's.  Also with them are their two sons, Joseph and Victor, Jr, who were both stillborn.


My grandparents with my great-grandparents.  My middle name is from my great-grandmother.  My daughter's middle name is from her great-grandmother.  My brother is also named after our great-grandfather.
We visit my Pipere's godparents (Uncle Jack and Aunt Flory).  They died within a few weeks of each other when my mother was about 6.  They had no children of their own, so we make sure Uncle Jack has his flag (WWI) and remember that they existed. They are at St. Agnes in Cohoes, along with my mother's birth mother, grandparents and cousin.  She remembers well the cousin, Rosie, who had emigrated from Cuba.  She lived up the street.  She was a fantastic cook, and died the day after President Kennedy.

The kids like seeing the names.  Jake has a fantastic eye for reading and spotting the names a midst a sea of granite.  We explain where our names came from.  My mother was named after her two grandmothers, Mary Louisa Badue Milan and Rose Biette Morris (who is in the pale blue shirt in the picture above).  We visited both of them today.  I am named after three of my great-grandmothers, Kathryn Kuzan Kopach (who is buried in Western Pennsylvania.  Someday I will visit her and my great-aunts who did not survive childhood), Catherine Ryan Wunderlich (visited today at Most Holy Redeemer in Niskayuna) and Rose Biette Morris.

My mom and I talked about heading up north to the Witherbee/Mineville area where Mimere grew up to visit her parents and grandparents.  Her grandmother lived with her when she was little and she often told me stories about her grandmother.  My great-great grandmother.  How cool is that!  And the story that we most often pass down is that my grandmother's grandmother, Etta Smith, was widowed.  Her second husband had fought in the Civil War, but for the Confederacy!  Not many of us from up here (and she was from way way up north) can say that.
Mimere at about age 4, which is Sophia's age.  She is with her grandmother, and her parents, John and Nellie Slavin.
One of the last "new" things Mimere told me about herself was that, after her mother died in October of 1942, Mimere moved back up to Witherbee to take care of her father.  I don't know if he was in ill health, or being in his early 70's, was just dependent on a female to care for him.  Mimere stayed up there for 6-9 months when she got the call that they needed her back down at General Analine in Rensselaer.  She moved back down to Albany and her sister Mary moved in to care for their father.  Mimere lost both of her parents within 18 months of each other.  She was orphaned by the time she was 25.  Her sister died at the age of 59, and Mimere was about 45.  Mimere had lived 48 years without her nuclear family, with only her married family, the Morrises to care for her and to take care of.

I am so lucky that I have as many stories as I do.  My other grandmother, Genevieve Wunderlich Kopach, wrote down many of her stories, which my father typed up and copied and gave to everyone after her passing.  She had taken a writing class in her late 60's and left behind a binder full of stories and recollections.  We would not know much about her family without that binder.

While I know that Memorial Day is about remembering those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice (which I do and deeply honor), I also like to use this time as a reminder to connect to the past to pay forward to the future.  My children need to know where they come from and what our family has endured to get to where we are now. It is a time where I truly remember.

Four generations, last Mother's Day.  How lucky I am to have this!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Prom Season

So, it's prom season.  I have lots of friends whose kids are going or have gone.  About 120 years ago, I even went myself.  Actually, it was more like 18 years ago.  This is what I looked like:




Sorry, Ned, but the image is out there.  Personally, I think we look pretty good.  I can honestly say that I can look at this picture without cringing.  I am laughing because I remember you saying, as the picture was snapped, "You're going to say in 25 years, who was that guy?"

It was the mid-90's, and Jessica McClintock was still a huge designer.  We were just graduating from poofed sleeves, hoops and super shiny satin.  Floral hair combs were still big.  Anyway, going to a catholic school, we had to wear white to prom. We also wore the same dress for graduation the night before.  There were some strict guidelines about dresses.  I feel it is time to bring some of those guidelines back.

The Times Union has posted pictures from many of the various school proms.  Some of the pictures are downright horrifying.  I mean, these are 16, 17 or 18 year old girls.  I'm guessing very few are actually paid prostitutes or belly dancers.  Yet, that is what their dresses look like.  I would love to put some of the pictures directly on here, but I don't know what the legal ramifications are of that.  I urge you to go look at the "Were You Seen?" section of the Times Union.

Based on those photos, I am making a DO/DON'T list for prom attire.  (I know it is too late to help so many girls, as evidenced by the photos.  If I can help one poor girl, then my work here is done)


  1. DO NOT wear a dress with a cut-out, key hole, or with other miscellaneous fabric missing from the mid-section, front or back.  Bare midriffs belong at the beach, not on the dance floor.
  2. DO NOT wear a dress that the top is connected to the bottom with only miscellaneous strips of fabric or beading.  You are not a belly dancer.
  3. DO NOT wear a dress with a plunge in the center that is below your breasts.  You are NOT Jennifer Lopez, and that look is even getting tired on her.
  4. DO NOT wear a dress with such an odd top that you need to have mom sew in a random strap, anchor or use double-sided tape to keep from giving a peep show.
  5. If wearing a strapless dress, DO make sure that it comes up high enough.  While your date may appreciate the view, it stresses everyone else out wondering just when your nipple will pop out.  Plus, you look cheap.
  6. DO NOT wear a dress with a slit up to your groin.
  7. DO NOT wear a dress that is so short you must get a Brazilian wax to wear it.
  8. Unless it is the plummers' prom, DO NOT wear a dress that is cut down to your ass crack.
  9. DO NOT spray tan.  You will look like an Oompa Loompa.
  10. DO NOT bleach your hair (especially bad in combo with #9).
  11. DO NOT bring your infant as your prom date.
  12. DO NOT wear sneakers (exemption if your have a foot/leg injury/issue, but for God sake, at lease bedazzle them!).
  13. DO make sure your dress fits properly.  This is especially important if you are a little bigger.  No one wants to conjure up the image of a stuffed sausage.
It's hard to fault the girls who made some of the most God-awful fashion blunders.  They may have chosen the dresses, but I doubt they paid for them.  Where are their mothers and fathers who let them out of the house dressed like that?  16, 17 and 18 is really not that old.  Dress like a young woman, not a harlot!  Save some kind of innocence for our society.  Look youthful, not like Linday Lohan after an all night bender.  PLEASE stop trying to look like a Kardashian and just be a kid!  When you look back in 18 years, whether or not you remember your prom date, you will thank me!




Thursday, May 17, 2012

Giving myself a kudos (and not the granola bar)...

Ok, I know I've been AWOL for a while.  Things have just been busy around here.  I've been doing better, less overwhelmed, but still busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest.

I just need to brag for a minute.  I'm gonna take the time to give myself a pat on the back.  I have Jake's annual review meeting in the morning.  He is doing well, and he has a great team working with him.  Events at my own schools this week have caused me to reflect on how far Jake and we as a family have come.  He's always been a great kid, no doubt.  But he is doing so well right now.  I think that some kids don't have the benefit of involved parents and that their disabilities are significantly compounded by their parents  (we refer to this as 'parentally impaired.'  This is not as of yet a category for special ed classification, but it should be.)

Tonight, Jake was filling me in on the goings on in school.  A new student in another 2nd grade class.  The presence of another (?) ex-girlfriend, although he refused to name names.  And then he told me that another classmate referred to himself as 'ugly.'  It broke my heart for this little guy, who is not, perhaps, the most well adjusted child.  It makes me sad that he thinks that of himself.

So, I asked Jake what he thinks of himself.  He couldn't give me an answer.  This is where his different thinking comes into play.  My question was too open-ended.  I re-phrased and asked Jake for five words to describe himself.  Ticking off my fingers he replied:

Awesome
Creative
Lovable
Nice
Friendly


Because we were on a role, I then asked him to use five words to describe me.  He, again ticking off my fingers, said:

Also Awesome
Smart
Nice
Compassionate
Kind


Yeah, I'm patting myself on the back, at least for tonight.