Friday, November 23, 2012

Genetic Memory

The following is not my own memory, but one written by my Great Aunt Elizabeth--known simply as Tia in the family--in her 1952 memoir published by the University of Minnesota Press. I never met Elizabeth, who was a French professor, but there is no question in my mind that I am who I am in part because she was who she was. Her joyful seeking after adventure, her curiosity, her delight in making surprising connections, the way she felt compelled to put it all into words. I'd like to have known her.

This is how she begins in Chapter 1.

In March of 1933, when I was sixty-eight years old and a professor emeritus of several years' standing of the University of Chicago, an episode occurred which showed me the important role played by chance and coincidence in the matter of ancestry.

I had sailed from New York to the island of Mallorca, planning to stay there a few days before going on to Barcelona. I found Palma swarming with English half-pay officers or their widows, and not a room to be found in any comfortable hotel. I suddenly remembered that a Minnesota friend of mine had asked me to be sure to stop at the island of Ibiza, should I be in its neighborhood, to see her daughter. . . . Upon making inquiries, I found that a small steamer would leave for Ibiza at noon, that it would take five hours to sail over the rough intervening seas, and that I could send . . . a cablegram warning them of my imminent arrival.

Everything went beautifully, and I was met after a stormy voyage by tall, lovely Ruth and her Spanish-looking husband, swathed in a Spanish cape and wearing an Andalusian hat.

We landed in Ibiza, the capital of the little island, and then motored to the picturesque little village of Santa Eulalia del Rio, thirty kilometers away . . .

The morning after, Jack and Ruth announced that they were going to take me to see the tiny but well-appointed Museum in Ibiza, where I should have a course in Phoenician, Greek, and Moorish occupation, after which my education would be considered complete and we could enjoy ourselves whole-heartedly.

She goes on to tell of an encounter with a gentleman at the museum who thought she looked like his aunt, and when he discovered her last name--Wallace--he was sure there was a family connection. And, of course, there was!

1 comment:

homendunroamin said...

I love this piece! What a wonderful description of her journey. Ah yes, those Wallaces.... (May the adventures continue!)
-D.