Family Treasure

The difference between wealth and treasure is that you can’t take wealth with you when your days are up, but treasure lasts forever. Wealth over time might grow or shrink depending on who is managing it. Treasures over time are kept safe because they are worth remembering and preserving. Wealth is gained by knowing that money does not grow on trees, but treasure is gained by remembering that a family does grow on family trees.

There is a tradition in our family that started when I was a kid. My Noni, not sure what to gift individually to each of her 14 grandchildren, placed money in an envelope for Christmas. This gift was then perfect for each of us to buy our heart’s desire… new clothes, a bicycle, a backpack, or just savings for a rainy day. It simplified the burden of shopping, or offering something as a gift that was not really appreciated by the receiver. For Noni, it was a way of turning wealth into treasure for her family. For us kids, it was great, but I can’t say I really remember what I spent the money for. For me, the memories blur and the gifts are forgotten except for the honorable tradition. It was a fun way for us to celebrate the holiday with our Noni and each other.

The history of money and the future of money are very interesting stories, and have shaped many a lifetime on planet earth. For the last few Christmas holidays, feeling kinship with my grandmother, and not knowing what gifts would be truly appreciated by my family, I have been bundling money with stories. One year, I shared the stories of Benjamin Franklin’s face on the bill, pleasing I hope to our very own namesake of this founding father, Ben. Next I looked into the seeming magic of $2 dollar bills, and found that, historically, there was none. This year, I am once again sharing the wealth and the treasure, but in a new way.

One thing about money – over time it becomes less valuable unless you find a way to spend it on things that increase in value. That is a flaw of wealth in the current economy. Prices go up as more and more wealth is added to the economy to keep pace with growth and spending over time. Value is subjective, and people always have an incentive for prices to go up, and never down. That creates endless inflation, which is hard to predict and often causes problems in the form of boom and bust. What I mean by this is illustrated by a couple of facts of modern history.

For instance, when the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican American War, the forced Mexican Cession of the territories of Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo México to the United States cost our government $15 million. In addition, the United States assumed $3.25 million of debt owed by the Mexican government to U.S. citizens. Look how much wealth has grown since 1848, when 18.25 million dollars in cash and debt was enough to buy the rights to govern and sell all the land in the states of Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada plus parts of Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas. Today, there are mansions on just a few acres that cost as much.

The value of a dollar inherently goes down over time, and keeping pace with inflation is something that makes planning wealth for old age very challenging. Senior discounts were invented to have compassion for people on a fixed income. The common belief in the last 100 years was that a senior could plan to have enough income for their needs  if they owned their home by the time they retired, and saved enough wealth to have a monthly income equal to their salary at retirement. But as pointed out by economist Jeremy Sachs in his book “”The End of Poverty,” the per capital income required for a basic standard of living increased by a factor of 8 between 1960 and 2000. That means a person who retired in the 60s with an annual planned income of 10,000, which was lavish at the time, would need $80,000 annually in 2000 to live at the same level. Instead, social security levels only increased to $12,000-$20,000, or twice what they were. So a few decades of retirement can cause someone on a fixed income to lose three fourths of the value of their saved money. Thus, our treasured elders may find themselves in need of wealth, or face the tragedy of poverty. Same as it ever was.

Income is different than savings. Income is the receiving end of consumption. Every time a dollar is spent, somewhere, a dollar is earned… well, less taxes, discounts, rebates, and giveaways. But, in theory, the best antidote to poverty is income, rather than savings. Thus, as the economy grows, and the value of a dollar inherently goes down over time, there is a constant source of new revenue that keeps pace with real values. If inflation is a disincentive for savings, it is just the opposite when it comes to debt or consumption. While inflation creates a “use it or lose it” attitude about saving money, it rewards people who are looking to close a deal now before the price goes up. And that is good for business.

This is probably the main lesson one learns in running a successful business. If there is more coming in than going out, you can stay in business. If you spend more than you make, at some point, the business dies because it has to consume more resources than it makes. Businesses that know how to price things high enough to cover cost and sell with a profit. The flexible and subjective price must be low enough to get rid of inventory before the bills are due, spending money to make more… well now we are getting boring.

Wealth can be boring, but wisdom says that if you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves. Pennies do not go very far in today’s world. The other great wisdom for business owners is called economy of scale. Some people create a tiny amount of value for a huge number of people, while others create a huge amount of value for a single patron. The bottom line means that when you add up all the time and effort, you have reaped a profit from the seeds you sow with the irreplaceable treasure of your time.

If you eat a lot, and never use the energy to exercise, you get fat. If you count your calories, you can see the relationship between the energy units you ingest, and the energy units you expend. My dad used to say that he stayed skinny even though he ate a lot because of a blessing of his anatomy. He ate like a horse, but he shit like an elephant. That is equivalent to binging and barfing. For him, it was built in. Sorry, I could not resist saying that.

I am offering you all a story for this holiday, and for the next one, Christmas, I am offering you a new idea for creation of personal wealth and family treasure. For me, treasure is made of memories, and memories are made of stories. I am inviting each of you to receive wealth in exchange for a story. I would like to meet our family ancestors, especially ones who have passed, like our grandparents. If you send me a story of your ancestors before Christmas, I will send you an envelope with money.

Write the full name of your ancestor(s) on the title of an email, or a letter. Place the story inside and send it to raindropsunchic@gmail.com or Sun Marian McNamee Lundell, Box 1176 Boulder Creek, CA 95006.

And check out this link. Happy Thanksgiving. Love, Auntie (SUN) Marian

TEDx Black Rock City, Woergle Experiment

Where are We, and Why?

Where do memories live? Are my ancestors alive because I dream at night of their spirits, and I want to know their stories? Can I consult my DNA in deep introspection to find continuity in the stories of their many lives? The dream memories  I find are not crisp and clear, nor easy, nor alive. They are secret and forgotten. They are scary and sad and confusing. I don’t know if these lucid others are imprints of past lives or fears from my nightmares. Humbly, in good faith, I ask my parents, angels, and other personal guardians for a guiding light through the silence of the many lost years. I research, imagine, and write for the sake of clarity and art.

Although there is much more to say about our Grandparents themselves, I do not know them well enough to share their stories. I leave their living memories in the care of our living relatives who know their stories by heart.

The sites I visit on this journey into our family tree explore locations where familiar strangers lived and died. My tour of the past discovers addresses where they lived and worked alongside countrymen and cousins. I scour passenger logs from ships where they travelled to and from distant ports in Italy. I find people without names captured forever in undated photos of our family. Are they relatives? With luck and detective work, a tomb stone displays a name and the date they died. Perhaps the stone is near a matching stone belonging to their spouse or their parents. In  just 100 years, lives are reduced to scattered inconclusive clues found in places where they signed their names, or places where tragedies they lived through are published in old newspapers.

Our journey back in time to the era before our grandparents takes us to the city of Chicago. Historically, this time of great progress, with associated upheavals and societal change, occurred during the decades after the Civil War, after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and before the beginning of World War I.

I take us now to 1850, apparently the birth of our Noni’s grandfather. His grave can be found in Chicago near the tower tombstones marked “Familia Matalone.” Our mother’s family began to dwell in America when her great grandfather, Giuseppe Matalone, arrived in America. On his 1896 naturalization papers, signed by his friend Vincent Mangano, he claims that he arrived in the USA in 1880, and his lived continuously in Chicago since then, intending to become a citizen.

In the future, some say we can upload our brains and clone our cells, so immortality will be more feasible in a single body than ever before in history.  Is a person made of space and time, cells and molecules, breath and heart beats? When these are past, what makes a person who they are in the afterlife? Are memories living things? Where do they live and who feeds them?

I began to record and edit stories from “the real time movie” with my husband, Allan Lundell. AKA DrFuture, he prides himself on being a geek who loves all things future, such as audio and video recording tools, AI (artificial intelligence) AR (augmented reality) robotics, cloning, nano medical strategies, and anything weird that might fit under the category of future evolution. We manage a business which turns our stories into movies, radio shows, and  treasured memories which we are leaving in the form of digital records for the future.

Is a person contained in their body, a particular face with a heart and a brain, a unique torso that’s walking around after the accident of life? I wonder what makes a person who they are. Nature & Nurture? Experience and beliefs? Myth & Magic, or Science and Ceremony? Philosophers advise us to “Know Thyself.”  It is not clear if this divine self exists as a part of my immortal soul or as the temporary guardian of my mortal body.  I find the story of MEE to be an emerging identity that rests on a lifetime of beliefs which have been added daily to a collection of subconscious memories and imagined dreams.

As an early digital ancestor with no living biobabies, I may not survive long in the memory of my “7 generations” genetic lineage. Instead, I offer those who love and remember me this emerging story of MEE. I offer as much authenticity as the moment will allow to deliver this state of the art, mythic family history. The story arc is from the center out, woven in traditional print and short form videos from my personal myths, memories and family stories. That is my gift to future Kin.

Not to be forgotten, Son of a Crystal

Perhaps dreams allow us to time travel and visit the worlds of our ancestors. Last night my father called me on the phone and told me to come because he was having some trouble with my Grandmother, his Mother, Francis Isabell MacCrystal. Does her name ring a bell? (haha) With a name like that, I am guessing she did not want to be forgotten.

In the dream, I was feeling a bit of her old-timer’s disease myself. I felt my dream father was calling me to help her remember. He told me telepathically to watch an old home movie of her. The movie that played showed my dad as a boy wearing cowboy boots and his hat. The silent picture sounded like an old chattering projector as it played a black and white short reel that was filmed in super 8 in the days before talkies. There was no picture of my grandmother, just her son as a young kid. I headed over to help him find her memories, but I got distracted along the way. Instead I woke up to remember the dream, and reflect on my father, his mother, and memory.

My Grandmother Fran was not the same as his Grandmother, “Ma MacCrystal.” Our Las Vegas cousins perhaps remember stories of these women, but I do not. Apparently she was born in Utah, and by the time we were born she was very, very old. Our dad was the youngest of 7 kids. He was born 20 years after his oldest sister, Fran, and 10 years after his youngest sister Ann, the one who he says raised him. Grandmother Fran was the first person I knew who died. Her husband died before I was born, so I did not know him. I guess that is how I will always remember her.

When the Scots and the Irish add a Mac or a Mc to the name, it means “son of” the name. MacCrystal was the son of a Crystal way back when, no doubt a sparkle in his mother’s eye before the day he was born. I have always felt proud to call myself Irish, as a lover of words, stories, and bardic traditions. Now the DNA tests available dispel my dear myth by telling me the Irish is only 8%. Ah, leave it to the Irish to exaggerate the facts for a good story.

The Irish part of my father’s family had the name McNamee, or son of MEE.  They came from county Monahan, leaving behind the lacemaking village of Carrickmacross in 1847. For these and other stories of our personal luck of the Irish, my father and I conspired to make a video of our family history, We showed this gem of genealogy at our centennial family re-union in 1999. In a half hour romp through the facts of our family history, we entertained the relatives with the tiny bits of family memory we could trace from five generations of grandfathers. That film is available for interested fans who ask me for “The Story of MEE.”

I have been noticing that the deeper I delve into the stories of my ancestors, the fewer the clues and the more there is uncertainty about the facts. As I imagine their stories to embellish thin memories, I am cultivating an insight about life. Over the course of a lifetime, a baby grows from one who has no language or memories, to one who learns stories from their parents and then from their own life. At some point, the personal story ends, except for those few stories that live in the memories of others.

As I age, I can feel an increasing number of gaps in time, as I live ever more in the constant NOW of new memories. My ability to play back my memories is expressed in a quote from a friend’s 99 year old mother, who recently passed away. She was asked by her doctor “How is your Memory?” She answered, “Great, as long as I don’t use it.”

As I swim through the universe of time, feeling the waves of form that constantly flow into new forms, I pause in wonder. Memory is that which is paused long enough to share, repeat, replay, and remember. Like hair, it gets longer as the memories pile up.

Watch Time

The fortune cookie says “If you are wise, you will get to live ALL of your 100 years.” A lifetime on earth, in a body, or as a star is always defined and measured by time. Everything in time has a birth and a death. But is time herself an immortal?

Mystics of the past became scientists when they found evidence of Time’s observable rhythms. Ancient stone temples revered the magic of equinoxes and solstices with annual festivals dedicated to the four seasons and their midheavens. The 19 year cycle of solar lunar eclipses was sacred to Brigit the bride, as the marriage of Father Time’s annual Sun cycle and the patient Lady Luna’s variable time of 12 or 13 monthly moons. Sundials taught us to measure the day, and eventually, the distance to the Sun. To measure the sky is the science of time, which gave birth to all our human stories.

Indigenous people speak of the Seven Generations. A lucky person can tell from their personal living memories the stories of their great grandparents, grandparents, parents, self, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Living Memory is all that a person has learned for themselves in their life, the subjective science of one person’s unique experience. This memory arc is the reach of personal responsibility, and also the treasure chest of legends, containing the remains of one’s own ancestors.

Stories, like dreams and memories, exist outside of time. Mere mortals hope to write their names on leaves in the tree of immortal life. It is widely believed that something uniquely personal remains of the body’s departed soul after death. Yet, beliefs are flawed, as they come from stories.

These fascinations of mine with time and the immortal soul are natural to all poets and lovers. I write these thoughts as the background to tell the stories of my last meetings with each of my parents. There was a day when they were alive, and I in my simplicity did not know that they would not be with me forever. Since then, I have learned that even I will not be with me forever.

This living body where my spirit dwells is a gift of my parents to me so that I can travel through time. They shared the journey with me while they could, and their stories live in my heart forever. Time herself gave me breath from their souls. I believe she will want it back when she returns me to light, like them, and gives my body back to the elements. I hope she loves and keeps these memories so dear to me forever.

Tenderly, I recall the last day of my mother’s life. We spoke a week or a day or a minute before on the phone, amid disorienting tears of sadness. She told me she had learned from her doctor that she had liver cancer. She scheduled her biopsy for next week, so she called to tell me. I spoke my very last words to her living ears during that phone call. “I love you, Mom.” She loves me too. I’m sure she must have told me.

Next thing I knew, I got a message from my aunt who said I needed to come to the hospital right away. Something told me it was too late. The oracle digital clock in the car said 3:34, and somehow I knew. The next minutes blurred with tears. The next days or weeks or months or years were pretty blurry too.

I lurked around the funeral, seeing a body that was not my mother from the open coffin at the chapel. I did not know where it was resting until one year when my little sister invited me to join her there to sing Christmas Carols. There was crying and healing.

The last time that I saw her, she was a luminous ball of colored lights. She wafted into and through me, filling me up with the sweetest love of my life and all the final tender feelings she could muster before her appointment with the end of time. I lingered in the amazing embrace, and curled up like her baby, crying and confident, joyous and devastated. She said goodbye, and I continued the dream.

Eighteen years later, many broken hearts were mended, and our family enjoyed Thanksgiving with Dad at his home in Cambria. He said grace and the Lords prayer, just as he always did in the past when we got together for holidays. We had become a happy family again. He had been present, I heard, at the birth of all of his grandchildren. My last living imprint of him on that trip was asleep in his lazy boy chair, watching the news after everyone else went to bed. He may have gotten a cold.

We heard a week later he died of pneumonia. Poor thing suffered so many years with weak lungs. He called himself a miracle of modern chemistry, but really he suffered from emphysema after years of closet smoking and grief. As our family became orphans, we found out that we actually enjoyed being on the family team togerher. We put together a beautiful funeral mass. It was held at Dad’s favorite gospel church in Las Vegas, where he prayed every day to make amends with God during the last few decades of his life.

When I got the call about Dad’s death, I was staying with friends in his home town of Las Vegas. Again, the fog of grief took over and deprived me of many memories. But there was a special moment when I knew my father was saying goodbye. I was up in the after midnight hours facing my computer screen for some project with a deadline. I may have been almost nodding off when suddenly, out of the blue, an alarm bell started ringing repeatedly. I found the source in a digital clock display for a video deck on my left. The green letters on the screen were flashing “GOODBYE.” Again, the tears took over. I looked out the window at the full moon disappearing into a wash of clouds. That face in the orb in that moment, I’m sure, was my father coming to me, reflected in the light.

After the funeral, we went to Dad’s house. His wife asked us each if we wanted to take any things he had left behind. I packed some socks, a sweater, a watch, and a pink Silk Purse jacket. These are the things that remind me of him. I consult them, especially the watch, when I need to feel his spirit, and wish for his advice.

Life is Short and Then We Die

The immortal deity of note for this chapter is Pluto, the roman god of the underworld, the afterlife, and also wealth. For 76 Earth years, this immortal god enjoyed the status of a planet. Discovered and named in 1930, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) struck Pluto from the list on Aug. 24, 2006. In a strange twist of irony, the god of Death reigns forevermore over a planet who is no longer a planet.

This demotion of the deity of death to the status of dwarf planet marks the closing of a window for me as well. I told the story of Pluto’s demotion at a congress of women called the Hummingbird gathering. The story spoke of incompleteness, and sadness at the exile of the smallest planet to the underworld of the Kuiper belt. Never again would children be taught to remember the names of the planets by reciting “My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine…”

Another story of incompletion I told at the gathering shared that I would never become that most honored of elders, a grandmother. Will there be a time in our family history that a childless woman will be just as proud of her accomplishments as a grandmother? Did we learn to respect our sexual equality with men by demoting ourselves to their underworld of sex without love? Are we spawning a world where children will be born to robots as mothers abandon the pain of their biological heritage? Will death, as Pluto has done before, surrender Persephone, daughter of the Harvest, before we die from the grief of Mother Earth? As above, so within. The only constant is change.

The Hummingbird event brought traditional wisdom keepers, prayer leaders, and women of all ages and race together to learn sacred community practices of ritual and prayer. The council of women who founded the event intended the ceremonies and prayers to bless the waters of earth. Following their tradition, they banned video during the event. The women taught me to watch over the sacred fire, which was kept lit continuously for many days during the ceremonial event. By guarding the fire, I learned new things about Nature’s ways.  To keep dangerous sparks from escaping during a strong wind, I learned to keep the embers covered.  One clear and calm night, they instructed me to feed enough wood  to the fire to make flames that were 7 feet tall. It was very hot, but gave us gorgeous natural light for the story teller’s circle.

The same year that I learned the meaning of the Red Tent as a sacred place for women who were bleeding their menstrual blood, my own menstrual blood stopped flowing. The mothering years of my life were over, despite the strange feeling that I had not grown old. For 21 of the 35 years of my fertility, my mother rested in an early grave. Her living sadness was a silent part of my own time of mothering. I announced to this body of women that mine was not to be a grandmother. And duly noted, I hereby dutifully remember mine.

Our mother’s mother, Rose Terese Matalone Morici, was born in 1909, I believe. My guess is based on the Census records I found online during my research. It’s not that I did not know my grandmother, but I did not know her well. She always said they did not keep good records in those days. She was not sure if her birthday was in June or July, and she guessed the year was 1910. Rose was born in Chicago. Her father owned the Chicago Macaroni Company. In those days, sad things happened to good people. Typically, the residents of little Italy kept the silence rather than talking about it. Some things were best forgotten. Maybe the silence habit tossed other memories, like babies, out with the bathwater. She never spoke to me about her past.

She married Anthony Charles Morici in the early 1930’s, and they moved to Santa Clara in the 1940s. As a wife and mother, she lived in a comfortable home not far from a fabulous public Rose Garden. She was very proud of her own garden roses, which were  mostly yellow as I recall. Other things wake up my memories of her, such as treasured recipes recorded in homemade cookbooks, and holiday pictures from family photo albums. She owned a chihuahua named Peppie who was not too friendly and barked a lot. I spent many hours in her rocking chair, which was remarkably sturdy and fun to ride.

My parents and siblings and I lived in another state as we grew up. When we were little, Noni came for weeks at a time to stay with her daughter and granddaughters. Every day was organized around cooking, and when she left we had gained a few pounds and a freezer full of pasta sauce and frozen italian fast food. Hot stuffed buns, lasagna, and gallons of marina sauce made mom’s job of cooking a lot easier for the next six months.

We visited one of her three houses almost every Christmas, Easter, or over the summers. Grandfather, like my mom, had passed away around the age of 50. They had a grand piano in the living room. At the grand entrance stood a beautiful pendulum grandfather clock that could be heard every hour of the day anywhere in the house. The bedrooms upstairs were accessed from a circular stairway that spiraled along a curving wall underneath a huge chandelier. We could stretch out our fingers from the upper banister to tinkle the musical glass.

Three rooms for the kids used to belong to my aunt, my uncle, and my mom. When I stayed in my mom’s room, which was most of the time, I would sleep under a framed painting that gave me the creeps. It was just a dark window inside the wall of a plaster house, but it felt haunted and cold to me.

As I have grown to be older than my mother, there is a smell that reminds me of my grandmother. She had an elegant bathroom, with a mirrored vanity in a separate room outside the toilet and shower. She kept jewelry and perfume on a marble counter, and a three part standing mirror was etched with vines and flowers.  If I close my eyes before I shower, a familiar smell that I remember can sometimes take me there. I smell and remember my grandmother, Rose.

During short visits, amid the crowd of many cousins, I spent almost no quality time that I can recall with my grandmother. She was never much of a talker, and Parkinson’s disease caused her health to deteriorate over many years. My last visit to see her was a week before she died. She was sleeping in her rest home, and did not wake up when I whispered in her ear. I am happy I was able to say goodbye, and thank her for all she did for us, her family, now that her time was done.

 

Two Sides

Janus is called the god of boundaries. He has two faces, looking away from each other toward the past and the future. He presides over beginnings, transitions, conflicts, coins, births, the new year, and times of War and Peace. He is a perfect entity to invoke in the beginning of this story of our ancestors. I invoke the blessings of Janus as I introduce my parents, who are the first generation of my ancestors.

 

Before I tell my stories about our parents, I feel obliged to first make a promise to the living people in my family. I will only write stories about myself, the immortals, and people who are no longer living. This practical courtesy worked for Mark Twain to assure that the writer could be honest, while not giving offense to anyone that might come up in the story. My intentions are to educate and entertain with my memories and my research. I hope I do not step on any old wounds in the process. To quell any fears that I might reveal facts too private or too personal, I ask trust and patience. My desire is to be a light and loving source of memories that are healing, both for myself and all of us. I have no axes to grind or hatchets to bury under our family tree.

I will preface the story of our ancestors with a short burst of my high school memories. The most defining moment of my life was a day when Mom and Dad told me that I did not get to choose which parent I would live with after the divorce. My high school boyfriend was my counselor at the time, since his parent’s had recently completed a messy divorce that took three years to settle. In his case, his parents were both fighting for custody, and the judge asked the kids to pick the residential parent.

At times I have felt the divorce really messed up my growing up. At this point, however, I bear no grudges. I like to say, “Change anything, change everything.” I feel great compassion for all of us family members… Mom, Dad, stepparents, sisters and brothers, in-laws, offspring, pets, etc. I bring it up because so much of my personal journey was defined by that day, when my mother told me through her tears “I am not losing my family too!”

At the age of 16, I could not understand the complex emotions of my father and mother. I wanted to live with him, and did not want to interrupt my high school life by moving to another state. Do all teenagers think they would rather live with their dad then their mom? It made perfect sense to me, and it did not occur to me that my mother would feel such hurt or rejection. My reasoning was that since they were making their choices, so would I. I was shocked they had not considered the question, assuming the kids were moving with Mom. When they did consider the question, at my insistence, I was devastated to learn the answer was a unanimous NO. I did not get a vote.

During our trip to the Continental Divide, my mother allowed me to use my newly acquired driving skills to navigate steep and scary roads on the way to check out a potential college. As my palms sweated on the undivided mountain freeway, we discussed the upcoming divorce. I could not understand why she felt loyal to a man who claimed he no longer loved her. I thought she should start looking for someone who did not have to be convinced. As I dispassionately expressed my “mainstream of the future” self image to her tears, I knew nothing of her broken dream of Italian loyalty to the family, honed by ages of mothers who endured deep suffering for the good of their children.

During three years of parents fighting over who would spend time with the kids on the holidays, I got used to the absence of my father in the last years of high school. I fantasize that if there had been no divorce, my college application to the ivy leagues would have been successful, and I would have become the fourth generation of lawyers in the family. I fantasize that if there had been no abandonment of the family by my father, I might have settled down and had some kids of my own. I fantasize that if my mother’s heart was not broken, she might not have died so young, and I might have many fewer sadnesses in my life. Couldda Shouldda Wouldda.

When it comes to living in fantasies, I don’t. I might believe in elf magic, but I like being a practical idealist. I work with my angels for my dreams to come true. I bet on the cards I was dealt by fate, assuming the goal is for the soul. I feel lucky, despite my disappointments. What I learned gave me wisdom and depth, and nothing but old age and forgetting can take that away from me. My blessings give me joy. So does my belief that I need to earn my reality, take responsibility for my choices, and finesse my own success.  It is easy to blame the disappointments of life on the disappointments of life, right? Wrong. That is the song of a victim. I embrace the healer.

The divorce story is a foundation for many parts of my own personal history, but is not really an ancestral story as fits the theme of this book. So why do I tell this particular story of my Father and my Mother? In hindsight, I see their divorce as a sign of the times. But for our family, it was the first crack in the paint on the temple of our family. Remember Janus? His temple has two doors on opposite sides. Those doors are open during times of War, when the face of conflict must be confronted directly. Those doors are closed during Peace time, when other temples are open to honor the sacred. Janus faces forward and backward, collapsing the past into the clean open hope of the future. The divorce may have opened the tumultuous temple doors, but my intention is to close them in a gentle wind of understanding.

When I was in college, I visited my boyfriend who lived near Santa Monica Pier. On a walk there one day, a palm reader offered me fortune telling services for five bucks. She told me with great certainty that I came from a very good family, underscore VERY. She could not tell me for sure how many children I would have, as she said the vision was fuzzy.

I feel the fortune teller had real psychic powers. She was accurately fuzzy, picking up on the very real attitudes I harbored at that age about sex, love, marriage and children. Our parent’s divorce had left me very confused about relationships, and as I got past that trauma from age 14, it took until age 47 for me to feel like I knew my own heart on the matter. It may be that what she knew about me was fuzzy, but what she knew about our family was true. We come from a GOOD family.

On that note, I feel ready to introduce the readers to my parents,

Joseph William McNamee and Carol Madeline Morici McNamee

We come from a VERY good family, honestly Catholic on both sides. My Irish/English American father was educated by Jesuit priests, and I was named for his sister the Catholic Nun. He was a lawyer, and prided himself on keeping agreements in good faith. As such, he considered it appropriate to negotiate the rules of his faith directly with God rather than the Church. For example, he chose to abstain from the sacrament of Communion in order to honor his own belief in the practice of using birth control, in conscious although discreet violation of the priestly decrees which directed behavior for other members of the Church. Since he did not agree, although he was never explicitly asked to agree, he simple chose to resolve the conflict in a personally acceptable manner. In this way, he maintained the spirit of divine law by living a freely chosen moral life in pursuit of happiness and justice for all , while not following the letter of the law wth respect to the Church.

Goodness was also abundant in my mother’s Italian Catholic family, who are hardworking and educated business people. They succeed by honesty, accountability, and negotiating good contracts. My dad loved to tell a story about my Grandfather who nearly walked away from the deal of his life. Desiring to retire, he spent months in negotiation with a major international food distribution corporation to sell his family business. The deal was almost called off when the corporation tried to chisel down the price based on discovering some storage sheds which they mistakenly thought were included. When confronted with an ultimatum from the Corporation to throw in the additional buildings,  my Grandfather spoke the famous line to my father and uncle, “Gentlemen, it looks like we are back in business.”

As a second generation Sicilian American, my mother was proud to be the first woman in her family to go to college. Her view of the Catholic church was practical and non-dogmatic. For her, it was more of a social club where she knew her kids would be mingling with trustworthy people who had good values. She felt that the rules of the church were not so much laws as guidelines. Her main loyalty was to her family. As the middle child and second daughter, she was flexible and loving, and was considered the heart of her family.

In an interesting convergence of opposites, like many things in my life, each of my parents named me after one of their sisters. My father’s sister was a nun.  My name also hailed from my mother’s older sister who had five kids. That sister was the first in our family to have a divorce, so the Catholic rules were seemingly loosing their grip well before my parents divorce.

 

 

 

The long silence of the Mothers speaks louder than their life to the children who need their love and guidance

Mom died – Read LL to mom for stories

Dad appears in a clock and on the face of the moon

Freedom or Family. Mothers and Fathers. Me and We

Transitions, silence that never ends

Do overs and repeat loops

Saying goodbye to my mother and my grandmother

Healing with my father and my family

All the names

Journalism students learn to answer the five fundamental questions: Who What When Where Why. The best question, which I prefer to answer first, is WHY. “Why?” is the question which sets art apart from journalism. (According to Steve Jobs, this is also true of advertising, but I digress… Please excuse the distraction.)

When I ask “Why?” the universe recognizes the child in me and gives all kinds of unexpected answers. If I ask “Why?” again, the very answer to the previous question becomes a new set of questions. Like God and Infinity, there is no end to “Why?”

“Why?” leads into new stories, and I love the adventure. Why am I moved to describe this story to my soul family, first person POV? To better know myself and help others avoid unnecessary suffering. Why? Those who know their history are less likely to repeat the same mistakes. I prefer to make new mistakes, not the same ones over and over.  Why? Freedom is a choice that only comes after the time innocence. It takes innocence to attempt the impossible, courage to admit mistakes, caring to address them, and strength to fix them. Knowing “Why?” aims the heart toward happiness.

Next up,  the most popular question is “WHO?” Who am I? Who are my people? For this answer, I embrace a tradition I learned from the native people of America. Recently, a fine young tribal man was hosting a poetry slam. As he introduced his name to the audience, he shared that when traditional people first meet each other, they speak their name in the form of the lineage of their fathers and their mothers. By introducing oneself in the context of their family of birth, the individual is empowered with personal history. Without inheriting this tradition from my own elders, I will honor both tribal wisdom and my own family by embracing this practice now as I introduce myself and the story of my ancestors.

I am named Marian (WiseSweetUtopianNun ElfQueen  Raindropsunchic  SunMarian SunMuse FuturepeakSun MrsFuture) nee McNamee (Son of Mee) Lundell McCrystal Webster Hayworth Hancock Robbins & Morici Matalone Scarpace Mangano Castiglia.

This name includes five generations of father’s surnames and mother’s maiden names. It includes my birth name and my married name. It also includes seven sobriquets I have given myself through the encounters which describe and define my life. In the custom of our family, my parents left the middle name open when I was born, so I could choose a new spiritual name upon confirmation into our family faith. While not exactly walking in these footsteps, I have embraced the spirit of this family tradition by taking on new names during my journey of life.

Over time, I found that instead of changing my name, I kept adding to it. I could not leave any name out, for each name is a universe of stories. Each name is a key to remembering the people who share that name with me, or the people who knew me by that name. Each name is an artifact of the time when the name emerged, fit my character, collected the mail for my identity, or signed the poems and cashed the checks. My names give me strength, or stamina, or notoriety. I allow myself to rise to fame or hide from shadows with a mask made from a particular name.

Authors say a character must always want something, and the hero must slay their dragons.  When it comes to my life, I just can’t make this stuff up, and it is the scariest thing I can imagine to share my naked thoughts about my journey on this road less traveled. To become fully who I am, I must feel more than witness this life, these times, this unique fabric of history. I write it down because I must catch it before it disappears.

This is Who I am, now. A scribe, a journalist, and a detective, I am discovering my inner Sherlock Holmes by researching my family secrets. I am ready to tell stories great and small about my ancestors, especially my mothers and their mothers, breaking the silence and regaining their stories for my own future. They gave their lives to their children, and like the flux capacitor, without them, time travel would be impossible.

Sobriquet

First there was the word, but when it comes to ancestor research, it all comes down to the names. And what do the names tell us? A little and a lot. When you are looking at seven generations, there are at least 8 surnames in the tree, and that is just if you trace back on the son’s father’s grandfather’s grandfather’s father’s side. That’s about 150-200 years of history, and includes maybe 20-50 kids who share the same last name. Many of them also have the same first name. That does not even address the names of the daughters, mothers and grandmothers. Maternal names are harder to find unless the daughter is unmarried, in which case the name on her grave matches the name on her birthday. I see why they call last names SURnames. Lady names are a bit lost to history.

In fact, as I was researching one of my ancestors, I came across a dusty passage from the era of Louis XIV discussing the aristocrats of the age. This courtly journalist noted his observation that among the royals, it was a particularly intentional policy to wed the daughters of the most powerful so as to make a famous surname disappear from the genealogy. Over time, this would surreptitiously diminish the power and prestige of the lineage, and thus their wealth might be better controlled by the rising male stars among the powerful elites of the day. Out of sight, out of mind. No name, no fame.

For most families in the pre-digital era, ancestral memories were recent, short and few. Only names that lingered in legends and histories could open doors of status and circumstance to young men and ladies of the aristocratic age. Casanova of Venice is perhaps the most famous person to be known for benefitting from having a famous name. His mother was an actress, clearly a talent from a family gifted with the refinements of civilization, although perhaps of questionable wealth and status in the age.

As young Casanova was introduced to all the best people in his travels around Italy, he was often the beneficiary of large gifts of clothing, gambling money, accomodations and professional positions. Because he knew his ancestral lineage back to the illustrious Don Juan Casanova of Venice from his mother’s grandfather, he was adopted as a cousin by a wealthy Venetian, much to the chagrin of the patron’s suspicious wife. Traveling as the man’s newly discovered long lost cousin was the ticket to an aristocratic lifestyle, hosted by the wealthier of the relatives.

It has been a long time since those days, but some of the clues in our family names suggest interesting stories leading back to those times. I bring up Casanova because I think it is possible he met one of our relatives. Or rather, in googling one of our family names, I found that Casanova encountered a family with the name of Matalone in Naples. I will save that story for a later chapter, but on finding this info, I expanded my search into the past beyond our grandparents. I added another thousand years or so to my bucket list. Only a small part of that story will be done in time for this year’s family Christmas present, so this is just a teaser. But before we crest the waves of that time, there is buried treasure much closer to home.

There are so many stories to tell, each with their own characters and timelines. It has been a challenge to know who to include and where to begin. In the future, it’s possible that the remembering of every moment from birth to final dissolution will be a matter of digital documentation. That is what Allan is working on with his lifetime archives. Truly ahead of his time, he delights me daily with his current project of copying forward the multi formatted tapes of our past decades together. Long forgotten memories become fresh new memories, and seeing ourselves as we were twenty or thirty years ago is an enjoyable fountain of youth.

Although these stories somewhat speak for themselves, presenting to an audience faces the challenge of short attention spans. We learned long ago that few people have the stamina for raw footage, which we lovingly refer to as “Fast Forward Theater.” Al likes to say, “There is life, and then there’s editing!” When it comes to our digital age, the art is not so much imagining what happened as honing the story down to the best moments in the hero’s journey.

Watching the footage, just like remembering every second of an entire lifetime, is barely possible. So, as an editor/storyteller, I like to say, “I only have time for my destiny.” Life’s real journey happens in real time, so that is where the rules of humanity apply. The recording is a copy to serve the spirit’s love of memory, which now can be duped into infinity.

There will be much in the future that is recorded, but not remembered. Maybe that is the Akashic record, and we have crossed over into the Time Traveller’s dream era where time travel IS possible.  To be clear, except for this moment of homage to my brilliant lover, the man of my dreams, today’s project is not derived from our digital archives. No, we are going old school into my story of the ancestral past, which I am cultivating from dusty fragments of research and interviews. I am telling these familial stories first, to include them so they will not be lost to history when our digital remains are copied forward for that ultimate future journey in the spaceship to the stars.

I have set my compass on the star which traces the names of our mothers and grandmothers backwards through time. We previously covered much of Dad’s family in “The Story of MEE,” our millennial McNamee family history project. So this effort will start with Mom–Madeline Carol Morici McNamee, daughter of Rose Terese Matalone Morici. I’ll trace the family backwards along the branches of our mother’s mothers.

As we dig deeper, the clues are very few, uncertain hints shimmering under the waters of time. Finding these early treasures is like hunting for shipwrecks in the Mediterranean sea. I have studied maps, and imagined many fabled histories of our Italian ancestors, trying to discover what is factual from the visible fragments of their lives. Sadly, the data is sketchy and the times they lived are fraught with turmoil. It is easier to find the bad news than the blue ribbon days. Maybe someone closer to the source can help decipher my confusion around some of the names. I have done the best I can in the time I have, and if I introduce mistakes, please let me know.

There is much to learn from the names of our family. Each name is a vast chapter of stories and relationships, and each chapter informs our genes who we were and who we are becoming. There are a few who are famous for their accomplishments or for their tragedies. Most, however, are rather invisible. It is amazing to search the footnotes of history for our own roots, and realize that the lifetimes of entire generations of our family are summarized in one sepia toned photo whose names would be unaccessible without the living memory of our elderly cousin who knew them before they died.

Sobriquet is a word I learned in searching for our relatives. It means nickname, or alias.  The search for an ancestor’s name is one mired in the sifting of alias identities. When immigrants came to this country over the last two hundred years, their names were in a different language than the men taking note of their arrival. Handwriting is hard to read, and spellings vary from Birth to Marriage to Passenger Lists on Sailing Ships to Census Records and Phone books. And really, gravestones are the final arbiters of dates that were guessed from other forms of identity.

Here are the fruits of my labor, a harvest of stories about our very own ancestors.

First, I offer our Morici McNamee family tree, expanded as far as I was able in a six month subscription to Ancestry dot com. You may find the names of some McNamee ancestors you previously did not know about, especially from the line of Francis McCrystal McNamee, our grandmother on Dad’s side. I remember riding my bike to her house somewhere between our home at 1405 South 16th Street and Dad’s legal office at 319 Third Street when I was a teenage runner for his Las Vegas Law firm. I have not taken much time to collect stories of the Robbins, Websters, Hayworths or other grandmothers on that tree. Next reunion, right? We can ask our cousins.

For this project, Joe Morici gave me the genealogy research done in 1992 by his brother Marty. That helped flesh out the Morici Grandfathers for our tree. But Noni’s family tree was fairly incomplete. Joe came to the rescue again, and introduced me to our cousins, the Mangano family who live in Aptos.

As it turns out, one of our Mangano Cousins, named Rachel, also works at KSCO, hosting our radio station’s morning show with Rosemary Chalmers. Small world! Her mom, Georgeanne Sigfreid lives with her mom, Anne Mangano, the youngest girl of her generation. She went to High School with our mom, and is now about 80 years old. I spent an afternoon with them enjoying stories, scrapbooks, and great food. I am delighted to share the buried treasures we uncovered. In this interview, I discovered our Mother’s Grandmother, and our Grandmother’s Grandmother.  It is my pleasure to introduce these ladies to all of you.

Next chapter, we will look at our family names. And then, we will look at some stories of those family names. But first, without naming names, I want to give you a preview of the process of finding these stories. I have found by researching that it is very tempting to assume that the stories which show up in the search for names are the lost stories you are looking for. But doing this research is more complicated and elaborate.

For instance, I suspect that sometimes the names of the Italian father was not the same as his son, and there are many reasons. I imagine there was trouble at home, and maybe a new name was selected-accidentally or on purpose- upon immigration to the new country. Or perhaps there was a habit of using the mother’s name in certain instances that disguised the family name of a victim or a criminal. The process of discovery has been something like a game of clue.

There are times when the absence of direct evidence feeds my speculation about indirect evidence. There are definitely Mafia related stories that deeply affected our family of successful grocers and macaroni manufactures. It will take a long time to track down better evidence, so for the moment we have just some newspaper clippings and the long silence of our relatives to guess at the real details of a very sad time for our family, when mom’s Grandfather and his brother were killed by gunfire on the streets of Chicago in 1926.

I spent many an hour with the Logic Problems in my Dell Crossword books as a kid. I am putting those skills to good use. My confidence in the relationships I have discovered is tempered by the complexity of the lexicon of evidence. I promise to do my best to give what Facts I know, and put my stories through the scrutiny of excellent logic. Finding an immigrant laborer’s wife after she remained in Italy for ten years as a “White Widow” may involve seeing through her marriage to anther man during the intervening years. The facts present themselves as possibilities when the older son left the business to his “brother.” It would appear this brother came separately to this country at the age of 1 with their mother on her immigration from Italy, seemingly the son of another father more than a decade after his brother arrived with the first father.

So, take all of these stories as what they are. Facts that were fed to an author guilty of imagination, passion, and romantic speculations. Like Puck in Midsummer’s Night Dream, I ask that, If by errors I have offended…

Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend.