Generations pancaking

Grimmly I must confess the sources of the family legends, fairy tales, and cautionary case studies are not nearly so far back as I imagined during my last genealogy attack a decade or so ago. Not saying there aren't some cows still grazing on top of the thatched roof, but the fabled characters are catching up with me.

BEFORE THE FEAST by Saša StanišicThe spoiled rich girl who eloped with the gardener turns out to be just my grandma's grandmother. No pricked fingers on spindles, no spinning straw into gold. Just a long slog having babies from New York to Iowa after a rough boat ride from England.

That wicked stepmother who banished her husband's daughter, my grandma, to Pierce, Nebraska, all the way from Sioux City, Iowa, wasn't really looking in her magic mirror for the fairest one of all. The fox was out on the chilly night when my great grandfather removed himself from the next chapters of the story, leaving his family to sweep the hearth with twig brooms and stitch by firelight.

My ancestors may have been inn-keepers, stable-keepers, or horse thieves. One admits to being in a traveling theatrical troupe.

The legendary "Unknown Liska" who pushed all his worldly possessions from the Ukraine to Bohemia was a refugee from religious and ethnic persecution, trying to find a way to survive like the ones we see on the news every evening. He was lucky if he even had a wheel for his  barrow.  And Russia seemed to be conquering the Crimea, and repressing Ukrainian national identity. It all could have been this week, or last... It wasn't the Dark Ages. (James Monroe was the U.S. President at the time.)  Upon arrival the refugees hoed sorry plots of depressing root vegetables, fermented and pickled and canned.

The loaf in the breadbox will be fine for your lunch sandwich tomorrow, but then overnight it's covered with fuzzy blue-green mold. How many youngest sons set off with just a chunk of day-old bread, a lump of cheese in a canvas bag and the best wishes of their poor single mother? They needed to meet smarty-boots cats, outwit foxy loxies, and spin stories to win the hand of the princess. Some even had to balance a pancake on edge and send it rolling up and down the hill...

Journey Cake, Ho! by Ruth Sawyer and Robert McCloskey
If we can't keep the stories going we are just a sorry bunch of whiny bratwursts. If we can't learn from history, we deserve the tyrant we get. Maybe what this country needs is more folktales told by wise grandmas with chin  whiskers.

A Treeful of Pigs, by Arnold and Anita Lobel

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder

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