When my mom died, I remember thinking, "Great - now nobody is here to tell me which of my dad's family stories are true, and which are complete bull$#!+"
When my granddad died, I instantly regretted not asking him about Normandy.
After my dad was gone, I realized I had completely neglected to ask him what his hang-up was about Norwegian dinners and Cherokee artifacts, when clearly, we are neither.
So by the time I was sitting with my grandma in her final days, I was prepared. I had an entire list of questions, not the least of which was finding out the real story of that one dude who died in a plane over the ocean.
She still didn't tell it.
And believe me - that ain't the only crazy mystery floating around here. For example:
• Why is there a picture of great-grandpa holding a loaded submachine gun in the middle of a crowded restaurant?
• Where exactly does one purchase a South American jaggerundi for home use?
• How does one get rid of it?
• Seriously - what happened to the dude in the plane?
• Is it possible that of Yoda's great-grandparents, one was fleeing the Nazi's, one was fighting them and one was helping?
• Is that the Titanic in that picture? Because for real, it looks like the Titanic.
So when Yoda started asking why everyone else(including her siblings) has grandparents, we decided to make a family tree.
We used info we already had, plied relatives to fill in the gaps, and headed to Ancestry.com to continue the search. Some things we knew, and some things we thought we knew - we didn't.
• We thought Rico was Greek.
He still thinks he is.
His mother spoke Greek.
But since the only trail we can find runs cold at his possibly mafioso grandfather - we can't be sure yet.
• We have a castle - a legit castle in England. It belonged to my mom's family until 1976.
• Rico's great-great grandma was named Hedwig.
• You can look at my granddad's boyhood house on google earth. Kooka calls it stalking. Since I actually went back, knocked on the door and asked to go into my own childhood home, I think these people should be grateful that google earth is all I'm doing.
• We have relatives who fought in the Revolutionary war.
And how are any of us alive?
Feeling grateful, and nostalgic, I decided that the kids must try "the food of my people" - and it damn straight wasn't gonna be headcheese. Armed with a new aebleskiver pan, I set to work, creating the lone ethnic food I remember my own parents actually making. Well, what I actually remember, is something like this:
Christmas 1975: My dad, his eyes glittering with excitement gifted my mom with a Danish aebleskiver pan and two sticks needed to meticulously flip each little jam filled nugget.
Her mouth said, "Thank you", but her eyes said something like, "Are you effing kidding me?! I'm 24 years old, I have a part-time job, two kids and you think I have nothing better or more interesting to do than sit over this pan for two hours meticulously browning your farfagnugen dumplings with a pair of knitting needles?!"
He made them himself.
They were okay.
My own kids thought the same thing. After an hour of carefully spooning batter and fruit into the tiny grease-sputtering, little pods. Yoda declared it, "Not good."
But Rico ate ten.
Seeing as he consistently trumps me with his little Greek delicacies, and continuously complains that all my people know how to make is reindeer jerky and cold fish sandwiches, it feels like another minor victory for the Danish.
The first came when I took him to Solvang, California, and he begrudgingly admitted that pastries were one of the only thing that the Danes were "ever good at". I nodded to the statue of Hans Christian Andersen and corrected him. "We are good at pastries annnnnnd fairy tales. What more could you ask?"
As flakes of buttery creme pastry fell from his beard he mumbled, "Maybe a vacuum cleaner and a cure for diabetes."
Touche'. Score one for the Greek.