Saturday

The Russian Jew


I was considering my unremitting drive to compete in another post and  mentioned my grandmother, Emma, as having seriously influenced that relentlessness.  Another of the the many things that make her interesting to me was her creation of an ancestry for us that included a Russian Jew.

Our clan has been tucked into this part of the world for about eight generations.  Lots of intermarriage (what can I say?).  A not altogether specious recorded genealogy has us being  burned out of our highland holdings in Scotland by the dreaded English,  spending several generations making love and music in Ireland, moving on across the ocean, fighting in the revolution and finally making our way down to these beloved Blue Ridge mountains.

So where did this Russian Jew come in? I used to imagine him with a big bag of notions of some sort on his back and an even bigger bag of notions in his head.  I fancied I looked a bit Russian, dark-eyed and daring.  Chekhov!  Puskin!  Then I grew up, read the paperwork and realized this traveler was probably a fictional creation added to our history by the Emma.  She thinking it would be a fine thing to liven up (as if we needed any livening...) the much intermarried clan.  Revisionist history at its best.

A couple of days ago I met a lady who was in reality a Russian Jew. I was telling her about this family addition and before I could get to the part about it not being a literal truth she  insisted that she could, in fact, see it.  How loathe I was to tell her that it wasn't so and that what she was seeing was a bit of DNA from my father.  A heady mix of Viking Danes and American Indian.  Out of the melting pot I come.  Some would say mongrel I'm sure but then they wouldn't know about the straight line descent from King Canute, would they?

Emma.  She gave her all in all things.  You might say she didn't believe in holding the good things back.  You might  say she believed goodness given freely makes its way back to the giver multiplied many times over. However, she would be quick to hand the halo back if this idea became too saintly. She did love a party.

And because she loved a party I'll always see my Russian Jew laughing.  Laughing at the fate that brought him half way around the world when that sort of journey could be years in the making.  Laughing with the woman who opened her door to him on a day as bright and cold as this one.  A beautiful man who at first sight loved this woman standing so sweetly in her doorway. Of course she had to invite him in. After all, it was bitterly cold......