Friday, August 15, 2008

Parlez-vous Family-Speak?

Jeff Scherwinski, circa 1980. Photo in possession of Cindy Scherwinski; Bergeron Family Papers

Somewhere in my library of treasured research books, buried within the chapters and paragraphs is a sentence that forever changed my approach to family history research. While I cannot recall the exact quote, or give credit to the author, in essence it said that every family needs someone designated as the Keeper of Everything. Up until that moment, I viewed myself as someone who's hobby was genealogy. Now I came to the realization that I was more than just the person that everyone tried to avoid at family reunions - the cousin/sister/aunt ("don't ask her how we are related!") chasing people down asking for family event places and wanting to know who has the personal effects of great Aunt Ruby. I was now The Keeper of Everything in my family. This designation includes recording for posterity, the 'isms of our family. My father's contributions will fill an entire chapter all by itself.

But without a doubt, one of my favorite family phrases was uttered one summer evening by my son, Jeff.

Four generations circa August 1975
Left to right: Alma Polar Space, Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski holding Christopher John Scherwinski, Phyllis Space Bergeron. Photo in possession Cindy Scherwinski; Space Family Papers

It was apparent from a very early age that Jeff had inherited his Grandmother Bergeron and his father's artistic talents. There was no detail too small that would escape Jeff's attention, eventually making its way onto his drawing paper. I have always wished I could see the world through his eyes; I'm convinced that the colors are brighter and the miniscule loom large. To this day, I treasure time spent with Jeff. We share a love of music and all things celtic and he shows me the delights of this world that I might otherwise miss. During the summer of Jeff's tenth birthday, he found a Blue-spotted Salamander and kept the discovery to himself until he shared his secret with me but only after I promised not to tell anyone else (aka his brothers). Jeff wanted to keep the intrusion on the salamander to a minimum to insure that he (and I) could observe it whenever we wanted - which we did until the first frost appeared in early autumn.

If memory serves me correct, one of my favorite Jeff-ism's, appeared to have come out of the blue one evening at the dinner table, all though I'm sure he had been mulling this particular thought over for quite some time.

"Too bad Grandma Space never had any kids of her own."

What followed was a painfully detailed explaination that I viewed as the perfect opportunity to share my love of genealogy with my family. More than likely it was at this moment my children came to the realization that they should never ask the line of descent from any name, living or dead, that does not found familiar to them without expecting a long dissertation.

My delight in enlightening my family to the wonders of genealogy was met with a lot of blank stares, that deer in the headlights look I find oh so often at those family reunions. What seemed obvious to me - Grandma Bergeron is Grandma Space's daughter - just wasn't registering with Jeff. In the middle of yet one more way to explain why Grandma Bergeron was Grandma Space's child, Jeff interrupted me with the plea ...

"Mom. Just cut that in half."

Is it any wonder Art Linkletter made a bundle on "Kids Say The Darnest Things."

Copyright © 2008 by Cindy Scherwinski

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