I must again call upon the good name of Mr. Iain Banks. In a charming passage of The Crow Road I read over breakfast this morning, the protagonist’s (?) father teaches a group of small children a lesson on reality and fiction – a lesson which brackets an improvised story about ancient animals of the proto-Scottish countryside. The scene is wrapped up with the father solipsistically stating that the only place that something is real is in one’s mind, anything from God to the fairytale animals on a childrens’ TV show.
This brings us to one of the tasty nuggets scattered throughout the six and a half seasons of The Sopranos. A strange episode concerning Columbus Day celebrations and Italian/Native American conflicts is concluded cleverly in a night-time drive home from an indian casino. Tony first goes after one of the points of nationalism which has never sat right with me. It has always struck me, right between the eyes with a sock full of nickels, as insane that one should be proud of something their great-grandfather did, or hate a complete stranger because of a conflict from generations, or even centuries ago. But I digress. The pertinent quote is Tony shouting, exasperated, “Columbus was so long ago it might as well have been a movie!”.
These two scraps of fiction sprouted the germ of an idea generated by reading a friend’s lovely new blog, Know By Heart. A paean to her late grandfather, mourning stories and family history lost along with him, struck home. My family has a nasty habit of dying young, not procreating, and living scattered around the globe; I only ever knew one grandparent, and my two cousins (from one of five of my parents’ siblings) may as well not exist. I wouldn’t know them if I bumped into them on the subway, and I know precious little about them. My last news from their mother was a forwarded email circa 2004, entirely in German, which I was only able to hilariously decipher with help from babelfish. (“one of my sons is a doctor, the other is a putrid animal”)
I’m so far removed from my family and my ancestors that I may as well produce a family history for myself, wholly fictitious, but reasonable. Things that would explain how am I, how my family is. Think of it as a written I Am My Family; why stay constrained to what may have once happened? Stay tuned for the results of this side project, based on the few old family photos I have left to me!