Family Legends

Every family has a story.  Even if there isn’t much known about the actual family history, the family story is being written, day by day.

I married a man with an  intriguing family history that includes a German scientist dad (who actually met Hitler!) who married his secretary and eventually escaped East Germany with her and their three little kids (and one on the way–Tom), fleeing to Canada and eventually landing in the United States.  The German scientist had another family before the one Tom was born to, and he didn’t know about his half siblings in Germany until he was a young teenager.  There are so many Bickel Family legends spanning many years, including such things as the “special friendship” my father-in-law had with (the actor) Michael Douglas’s first wife’s mother…try following that one after a glass of wine…and the time he was hired to find water on the land on Figueroa Mountain that is now known as Neverland Ranch.  Truly fascinating stuff.

My own family of origin has stories too though I’m not entirely sure if some of our family legends are actually true.  Since reconnecting with some of my paternal cousins, I’ve learned that they too grew up believing that the Friar family has Native American blood.  I grew up hearing that my dad’s family had blackfoot indian blood; one of my cousins recently shared that our great-great grandma (who she believed was named Minny) was Cherokee.  However, my brother Jerry did some genealogy study using Ancestry.com and found no evidence of Native American ties.  Is it possible that our direct Native American ancestors belonged to unrecognized tribes?  I suppose.  But to be perfectly honest, I’d be more interested in learning how this belief originated in the family and how it was told and retold through the generations.

One of the most mysterious and troubling family legends was something I overheard my parents arguing about many times during my childhood:  that my dad fathered a child when he was stationed in Germany (before he met my mom).  He told my mom that he was involved with a woman named Annelisa, who became pregnant by my dad.  That baby was a boy who was adopted by an Air Force officer (or some higher rank) and his wife; they named him David.  This subject would come up during arguments that I think started when my parents were drinking and my dad would start to accuse my mom of being unfaithful.  I wondered, so many times, if I actually had an older brother somewhere and if he would ever try to find my dad.  Was I not actually my pop’s firstborn?

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This was my mom’s most favorite picture of my dad, here with me.

Another family legend involved the song Oh Lonesome Me.  My dad claimed to have written and then sold this song for $50, with no rights to claim that he actually wrote it. Ghostwritten by him, he said.  Is this true?  I have no idea.

I’ve allowed myself to travel back in my memories lately; this wasn’t always safe for me and as a result, I pushed many memories so far back in the recesses of my mind that it can be a bit hard to retrieve now.  But I’ve grown up a bit, grown strong, thanks to the stable family life that Tom and I built together.  I wonder, when we are gone, what family legends our kids will remember and share?

In other news…we are in the process of digging up our parched and gopher-damaged front yard to prepare for a new sod planting.  When I say “we” you should know that I actually mean Tom.  I have been banished from any yard work after my six weeks of hell due to poison oak reaction.  So while Tom is sweating and shoveling, I occasionally go outside to wave at neighbors and to comment on his progress, telling him he’s doing a good job.  This project is taking a long time, mostly because Tom is doing it alone and maybe because every time I casually mention how long it is taking, Tom slows down even more.  I don’t know if the slowdown is purposeful, but  I do know that Tom DOES NOT like to be bossed around, and that includes casual mentions and letters from the Homeowner’s Association about the state of the yard (Tom’s comments while reading that letter, well, I won’t repeat here).

Progress, as recorded today:

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Tom’s ability to fix stuff is legendary in our family so I know, even though this project is taking much longer than I’d like, that he will make something beautiful happen here.

Work is done for the day around here; we are getting ready to grab our fold-up chairs and head to Ryon Park to listen to a band we like.  The Lompoc Valley SpringFest closes today, and Holger’s Heroes will be playing some classic rock favorites.  The perfect way to close out our weekend as well.

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