Sunday, January 11, 2015

Family History

The Dream: We are visiting acquaintances, a little older than we are. They are very nice, salt of the earth, mid-Western. As we converse it becomes apparent that the man, slightly heavy, quiet, almost dour, is a keen genealogist. Clark doesn't immediately let on that he is as well, but I say, enthusiastically, “Oh! So is Clark!”
I go on to say how either you're interested in this sort of thing or you're not, and I'm not. And I tell him it's because I know everything there is to know about my family, and I proceed to tell him.

“My grandparents are Russian, my father's family from Belo-Russe; my mother's were Russian speakers who lived in what was Austria Hungary at the time, now Poland. There was all sorts of ethnic, political complexity at the time, I explain. “My mother's father died when she was 2, and my grandmother worked cleaning office buildings to keep the family together.” I find I am getting choked up as I say this, fighting back tears. My listener is impassive. “She was a hero!” I say.

Meanwhile, the wife's large family of sisters have arrived. They remind me of the women in my exercise class: pleasant, but I feel I have nothing in common with them.

Interpretation: The mid-Western people I have nothing in common with represent the larger American society and culture that, as a child, I felt too ethnic to be a part of. My estrangement is echoed in the present by my feelings about the women in my exercise class. The impassive mid-Western man understands nothing of the immigrant experience and really isn't interested; he's very comfortable in his own deep experience of endless American ancestors.

What the dream brings up about my feelings for my poor, overworked and very kind grandmother is new to me. I hadn't been aware of this sadness lurking inside over the difficulty of her life. I'm not sure why I'm telling the man about it: it's as though I'd like him to understand, but he isn't interested. With the appearance of the wife's large family at the end of the dream I'm thrown back to a women's group (like the members of my exercise class) that I can never be part of: they are sisters and I'm not. This dream points to one of the reasons I have often felt somewhat alienated.

No comments:

Post a Comment