Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Common Threads

I guess the easiest similarities to identify are the physical ones. Lots of blue eyes and curly tops (fuzzheads as we call it) in my family. Some faces can be easily traced to one branch of the family or another (not by me though...I've never been good at that). One trait that started to appear in my dad's generation is height. We have no idea where it came from. All of those early 20th century immigrants were 5'6" at the most. My dad and his brother were just under 6' and their sisters are both above average height. I'm about 5'9". The only explanation for my height was one little grandma on top of the other.

Beyond the physical traits it gets a little tougher because my family hasn't been in the US for long and most of the older relatives my dad grew up knowing had that stuffy "old country" demeanor. On my dad's side of the family, we're all a bunch of wiseguys and love to laugh. We also all pop vitamins and other supplements. I know how that got grandma Irene. According to my uncle Len, she started the whole vitamin craze when she and my grandfather got married in 1931. She wanted to make sure he was well taken care of and healthy. As kids we hated taking the pills, especially those uncoated vitamin C tablets. It stuck with us though.

Working with our hands seems to be a common thread whether it was to earn a living or as a hobby. Most of the immigrant ancestors worked doing laundry or in the textile industry. I have 2 distant cousins I just learned about who were in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire(one survived, one died). My grandfather Saul Schneider was head presser at a textile factory, a member of the ILGWU. My other grandfather, Harvey Klein, and his twin brother Joseph were both plumbers, also union men (Local One in Brooklyn). My dad, son of Harvey, is a licensed contractor and Joseph's son Marty owned his own sprinkler company. I'm a little nervous around power tools but I can install a ceiling fan by myself. Now my dad is building a house by himself. More recent generations had more choices. I'm a CPA and both of my sisters are teachers. When I found the 1930 census page for my grandma Irene, I discovered that she worked as a bookkeeper in a laundry after graduating from high school. I wonder if that's from whom I inherited my love of putting numbers in little boxes.

My mom was big into needlework. She cranked out sweaters and afghans like she was a machine. I wish I had kept those ponchos she crocheted for us...they're back in style now. I learned to knit and crochet when I was younger but it didn't stick. I prefer needlepoint and cross stitch. Maybe this is the transition from the laundry & textile working ancestors to creative hobbies with fabric and yarn.

Maybe I need to call up some more ancestors for another dinner party.


Janice said...

I came from a short family, and yet my generation are all fairly tall. My very short mum credited it to all the vitamins we took...

Thank you for the interesting article.


Colleen said...

I remember crocheted ponchos!

Thanks for your article. It's always fun to read about the lives and livelihoods of people who came before!

Professor Dru said...

I also remember crochet ponchos. I love the title of your piece. The photo of the little children is so cute. You're fortunate to have such a photo of your grandmother and her brother at that age. Have you seen any similarities in the way they looked as children compared to the way generations after them looked?