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Let’s Get Together

just a small sample honey

Once upon a time, not long after World War II, there was a girl from Chicago who fell in love with a guy from Germany.  Their parents said they shouldn’t marry, but the guy from Germany was so in love with his girl from Chicago that he hopped a plane (when hopping a plane was fairly expensive) and showed up her doorstep to announce that they were meant for each other. They’ve been married for over 50 years.

Once upon a time a few decades later, a son of Egyptian immigrants fell in love with a girl from Ohio. Their parents said they should marry, but that their different backgrounds, religions and races would present challenges. The girl and the guy did their homework and have been married for almost 20 years.

Call me a romantic, but I’ve always loved the stories of how people got together.

Some of my curiosity comes from my own family. There is no shortage of wanderlust or willingness to love people from all over the globe. But, for the most part people in our family have adopted the philosophy that love is love, man (I think they said man after the sixties).
When I was in college I majored in history. It has nothing to do with what I do for a living now, but it had everything to do with understanding life.  Stories about wars mattered, but they aren’t what interest me. I have always been more curious about the the stories of the average people who survived the conflicts and moved forward, and, from what I’ve seen, getting together really is how what makes the world go round.
So when the Big Guy told me his family’s story of his great-grandmother and great-grandfather, my first question was, how did the orphaned son of a British-born Civil War hero and a daughter of the Mohawks get together? They might have had a lot in common, but my guess is that even in Vermont, they must have faced some resistance from society.  There had to be a great romance there.

So I started digging.  I had a family photo of the great-grandparents. I had a delightfully-detailed sketch of Alice, the great-grandmother,

and I had a mountain of town records claiming that not only was this woman not Mohawk but that she was born when her own mother, with no previous children, was old enough for menopause (also not common for the era).

My quest has become a search not just for a love story but for the story of who Alice was.  At first it was fun – a unique way to connect my kids to their Vermont roots. Now, however, I am interested in the mystery.

Was she adopted? Did her family adopt an English name to be able to survive in an era that saw the genocide and ostracizing of natives who were now outsiders?  Some of the research is uncovering an unsavory part of Vermont’s and America’s history – when children from Native Families were forcibly adopted by white, Christian families ‘for their own good’.

The Big Guy is surrendering a sample of his DNA for analysis so that we can find some guideposts, but even if we know where she came from, I’m not sure if we’ll ever know how she and her husband Charles ever got together.  I’m happy to keep searching, and uncovering the bad with the good is more good than bad because it is uncovering the truth.

The big truth that I’m finding in this history is not just our kids’ connection to Vermont but a much bigger connection to the stories that shaped this country.  For Alice, it may be a story of how she was divided from a heritage.  For Charles and Alice, I hope it will be a story of how the things differences don’t have to divide us if we are willing to except that what we have in common inside is greater than the variations on our shells.