I see you have been active on this blog, readers, while I've been distracted by other things -- like kindergarten graduation (what a papparazzi event that was! I'd never seen so many flashes popping!) and the weather (ideal for gardeners -- it rains at night and shines in the day) and my hapkido class (great stress release).
Thanks for your comments and I'm sorry this post will not address them, because I want to write about a neat thing that recently happened. I received an email from someone who saw my name on a genealogy website, and it turns out he is a second cousin. We had never met, because his branch of the family belongs to the -- well, why don't we call it "the 99.9996 percent." (Thanks, Theo, for the math. I wanted to illustrate it with a pie chart, but it would have to be the size of a moon for the "saved" percentage to even show up.)
So anyway, this cousin lives in my state and was passing through town, and we met for dinner. We don't look alike (he's handsome). But in his thick stack of photographs, familiar images emerged: the Finnish grandparents, uncles and aunts, the farms, the tractors, the big bulbous cars. As he sketched out our family history, it dawned on me that I am one in a long line of dissidents: TEN of my grandmothers' siblings left the OALC. Their children knew little or nothing about the OALC, and their grandchildren even less. My cousin thought it was simply a Finnish-speaking branch of the Lutheran church. He and hs family used to live within a few miles of my house.
When I heard this, I was inwardly outraged.
Imagine yourself as a 19-year old, fresh out of the OALC, shunned, naive, penniless, working nights at a Chinese restaurant to pay for college, renting a room in a huge, strange city, afraid of your own shadow and lonely beyond description. Imagine baking a cake for Thanksgiving and bringing it on the bus (you have no car) to the homeless shelter to have someone to share it with, then being overcome with shyness and furtively leaving the cake and pan at the reception desk and catching the bus home, crying until there are no tears left, partly because you just gave away your only cake pan. Imagine hating holidays.
Then discovering, decades later, that you were actually next to cousins in that city who would have opened their hearts and arms and homes to you. If only you had called! If only you had known!
But anger serves nothing.
The great thing is that NOW I'm learning about my forebears: the Crash, the Depression, the struggles and recoveries, the illnesses and deaths, the hard luck and stubbon hopes of these hardy immigrants. For example: the couple en route from Finland who had a baby at sea but hid it, so it could be registered a U.S. citizen. The newly-widowed mother who refused to give her baby up for adoption despite her siblings' pleas. The John Deere tractor, purchased in the thirties, that is still operating on the family farm.
I'm looking forward to seeing that farm, where my grandparents lived when they lost everything (the sister who took them in was a former OALCer, but they were not in a position to shun her). When I see that old John Deere tractor, I'm going to take a photo of it, and think long thoughts about "sisu." Mostly, I'm going to celebrate this freedom to love all my people -- 100%. It's a significant victory.