Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday Musings: March 2, 2014

My great-granny came to Canada when she was just sixteen years old. She came alone all the way from Ireland.

Now Granny-Robertson was quite an Irish lass, a little spitfire from my impression of the stories I've heard. Yes, she talked many a time about the wee folk. And every March 17th, St. Paddy's Day, she would go to her room with her radio and listen to her songs and have a cry.

I have a picture of the four, mom, Nanny, and Granny...but sadly I have no real memories of her except for the stories about her. However, she's alive and well in my heart and mind.

March 17th is still a special day here at home.

Now, I grew up believing...still the wee folk. In the magic and superstitions of putting new shoes on the table; must put a penny in a new purse or wallet you're gift giving; slip a new baby some money and never ever visit one without a gift; knock wood (normal my Nanny would rap her head) for luck.

I'm still confused about "such an old-fashioned baby" when my Nanny and her sisters would comment on a newborn. Someone mentioned it meant old soul...I think they were just repeating their mum's words.

Now, my Granny married a Scotsman. He came over alone when he was just seventeen. So happens my dad's first marriage was to a Scot over in Scotland, which brings me to having an older brother...who is as quiet as I am not. His wife, my fantastic sister-in-law, and I yak all the time..

So, I also grew up wondering about LochNess. I visited there the September after my Grandfather (mom's dad...English and Canadian were his parents) died. LochNess is one freaky place let me tell you.

Stirling Castle had me picturing spirits walking didn't actually see any but it didn't take much for me to think about them.

So...hey, I'm Chatterbox II of course I'm's what I purpose for today’s Sunday Musings:

What family stories, superstitions did you grow up with? Which ones, if any, do you still believe. What family sayings have been passed around but no one's quite sure what they actually mean? Who is your family.

My dad was born in Czechoslovakia, he was there when WWII was breaking out. Their land was taken from them and they were put in a camp. My grandfather was put to work. My aunt was born in that camp...they had to steal milk. His mom's family mostly died in there...his paternal grandfather bribed a guard and they escaped in the middle of the night, living homeless and hiding until the end of the war when they came to America.

On my mom's side, my great-grandmother, God rest her soul, traveled by boat from Sweden when she was sixteen with a friend to avoid an arranged marriage.

It's a well-known fact in my family, that the women are 'sensitive' to the Otherside.  I grew up listening to tales of my great-grandmother Harris, who was the daughter of a polygamist, of tales of the Clarks that came over the Plains with Brigham Young to settle in Deseret(Utah). Her father, my great-great-grandfather Ezra T. Clark founded Farmington, Utah.  He was 'friends' with the prophets of the church.  My great-grandmother remembers how she'd hear 'prophecies' and she wrote them down as a young girl. Some of those are in my current project.

She shared stories of how when they thought they couldn't make it, they'd have a spiritual experience that helped them on.  I also remember the one tale of my grandmother being so exhausted with a sick baby and after she dozed, looking up and seeing some woman rocking the baby and telling her it would be okay.  My grandmother was the only woman in the room.

On my other side Grandpa Consoli would share his Mexican tales.  Indigenous tales were usually  mixed with Catholicism.  One big story had to be when his father went with his mother's Mexican brothers back to Mexico to find some 'hidden' gold outside of the Sonoran mountains.  They had a run-in with the Native Americans of the area and had to fled but not without a few in their party being killed. 

If you've read any of my stories, the paranormal is woven through them.  My one book Crossed Out, deals with a girl who not only sees the dead but helps them to the otherside.  **No, I don't do this in real life!  You'd be surprised at how many people have asked me that! 

Earrings of Ixtumea is a combination of my own search for my Mexican roots and my experience of how racism at that time had many, including my Mexican grandfather, to hide who he was.  So the 'hidden' gold in my story case has to be Lupe 'finding' her rich heritage and past. 

I grew up more with the native American tales. My great-great grand father was a duke in England (Our family crest still hangs in the hall of Seal I'm told). This grandfather came to America and married a Cherokee princess, startimg the Crofoot branch in the Americas. I learned and studied these tales of bravery and white creatures being signs and incarnations of the Great Spirit.

However. the English blood still flows and I have always believed in the Wee Ones. There is this Photograph I learned of when I was younger of a little girl sitting in a garden. Around her several small bright creatures dance and fly. No one has ever been able to prove this photo a fake. It was taken in the 1890's.

I had a close personal friend from work once, some years ago now. Very sensible woman, smart, sensible shoes, smart sensible attire. Her job was being the receptionist at my place of employment, and she worked very hard at being very dependable. She was an older woman, from way down in the Ozark Mountains. Way back up in the hills. One day in her youth, she went for a walk in these mountains. Something she did quite often being a mountain girl.

She swore that on this day, from out of the forest, came a small band of little people to cross her path. She said she just stood and watched them as they went by. While she never saw them again, once was enough for her to remember. This woman was not the sort to spin fanciful tales, or have flights of the imagination and she only told this story one time and went back to her sensible work.

The wee folk live here in the America's as well. Maybe you just have to believe.


Marsha R. West author of VERMONT ESCAPE and upcoming TRUTH BE TOLD

My mother was from South Carolina and I’ve picked up several superstitions from her side of the family. Nothing too uncommon I think. If you spill the salt, you have to toss a bit over your left shoulder to ward off bad luck.
If you and your partner are out walking and something (a post or pillar) divides you, say, “Bread and butter,” to keep from having an argument with your partner.

Growing up, I never heard my mother swear or cuss. If she was disgusted or angry about something, she’d say, “Foot in the tar bucket.” The r of “tar” was missing and all the words ran together as if it were all one word. This was sometimes shortened to “Foot.”

Now my dad was from Missouri, the show-me-state. He really was hard-headed. He was convinced that when your time was up it was up, and bad things came in threes. To this day, I’m amazed at how often famous people die in groups of three. Another thing my father always said was, “Six-a-one- or-half-a-dozen-of-another.” I was a full grown up woman with kids of my own before I figured out how he got the meaning, which of course was it’s the same either way. His mother, my grandmother, when I’d hurt myself,

“A hundred years from now, you won’t remember it.” Again, I was grown up before I understood she was saying, I wouldn’t be around in 100 years! I never said that to my kids, because it made me made when Grandma said those word. I just wanted a little sympathy for the hurt. I probably over compensated.

Pauline (P.M.) Griffin author of THE STAR COMMANDOS series

I'm a first-generation American.  My Aunt Mollie and my father both came over from Ireland before the Depression.  Daddy was drafted before WWII and helped pioneer the Arctic gear used by the troops in the Aleutians.  He was scheduled for demobilization because he was overage and was writing to his aunt about this travel plans the next day (Monday) when the barracks radio crackled and an announcement interrupted the programming:  "The Japs have bombed Pearl Harbor..."  He crumpled the letter and tossed it in the waste paper basket.

PFC Griffin went to London courtesy of Uncle Sam.  He had relations there who gave a party for him.  A charming Irish colleen was there, and they were married following the end of the War.  She had endured the Blitz, and he had been a POW in Austria.  She came over as a war bride to begin her life in Brooklyn, NY.

Neither of my parents had anything in the way of supernatural stories, but Aunt Mollie made up for it.  She had a number of experiences and knew tales of others, and there was some evidence to back at least some of them.  I could do a mini book recounting all of them.

My parents and aunt did not have much formal education, but they educated themselves by reading, and I credit them with opening up the areas that hold my greatest interest today -- history (especially military), animals, etc. For example,  I recall my father taking my brother and me through Prospect Park (near our home) and its environs and showing us where the Americans and the British lines were during the Battle of Brooklyn, describing the stand of the Marylanders, telling how Glover's Marbleheaders rescued the army, etc.  We would then go to the zoo and learn about the animals there.  It was a good way to acquire knowledge for sure.

Dawn Knox author of the upcoming: DAFFODIL AND THE THIN PLACE

If things had taken a different turn, I could have been a Jewish heiress. 

The fact that I'm not, is due to my great grandfather, the son of a wealthy Jewish family in the East End of London. As a young man, he fell in love with one of the maids and to prevent a scandal, he was packed off to America on a ship and family legend has it that he docked in Ireland, although I'm not sure if it was on the way there or the way back. While he was in Ireland, he met an Irish Catholic girl, with whom he fell in love and then married. 

Imagine my Jewish great great grandparents' shock at learning they'd averted one romantic disaster only to prompt another! 

Sadly, they refused to accept the match and cut their son off without a penny. 

My great grandparents had seven children, so I like to think they spent many happy years together after a whirlwind romance and the regrettable expulsion from their family, which resulted in me being neither Jewish nor unfortunately, an heiress!

Ever since I was a little girl I have heard the story of my grandfather coming to America. My father used to tell us about his childhood growing up in Grodnoh, which is now in Poland. When he was a little boy this was part of Russia, the Polish corridor. He told us about snowy winters alone with his mother. My grandfather had been impressed into the Russian army. But he didn’t want to be there so he deserted escaping by boat to England and finding passage to America just before the turn of the twentieth century. He found himself in New York City and when he got to Ellis Island he changed his name from Pitt to a more Jewish sounding name, Levine. That’s why it was very difficult to find anything about my father when I looked at the archives in Ellis Island.

So my grandfather being a carpenter set himself up in business in New York  Then over the course of several years he traveled to his hometown and came back every summer. By the time my father came over here he was 10 years old and had five other brothers and sisters. My grandfather was a very large imposing man and he was very, very religious. My grandmother, who I am named after I remember very little about except she always made these hard sweet pastries called “keichel” which I loved. They lived on the Lower East Side and my father grew up in the era of Prohibition. He used to box welterweight and I guess this got him into a certain part of society. He had a good friend whose mother was a famous opera singer and here is where I’m not quite sure, because no one really knows, he got involved with the Jewish Mafia and started driving for the gangster, Louis Lepke. At a certain point he decided he’d had enough and at that time he was a cab driver in New York City. That’s when he met my mother and I guess he didn’t want to be in such a dangerous business. For some reason the mob had a hit on him so he had to be on the run. He told me that’s why he learned to sleep with one eye open. Thank goodness they never caught him or I wouldn’t be here.:) Eventually he went into the Army and worked on planes during the war.

My father was also a great carpenter and he could pretty much fix anything. I don’t know why he didn’t stick with airplanes, but he had a series of jobs after he got out of the Army and wound up working for my grandfather who owned a material and trimmings store in Brooklyn. My father and his family had moved to Brooklyn sometime in the ‘30s. He used to tell me that he had never had mayonnaise until he was grown and he was so religious, Jewish people don’t eat any dairy products with meat, that when the Kraft commercials came on and showed things like cheeseburgers it would turn his stomach. In my house we never had milk with meat, but my mother did have ham and bacon. I used to love ham sandwiches and when I was a little girl I would get one from the corner luncheonette. One day I was eating a ham sandwich. I must have been only five or six, but my grandfather, my mother’s father who also was religious, came into the store and I quickly grabbed a brochure and hid my sandwich. I was so mortified when my grandfather guessed what was there and made me open it.

My mother’s family came over here earlier than my father’s and they were from Austria. My mother used to tell me about living on Hester Street in New York. She was so happy when they moved. For years the family would joke about Hester Street. 

My father as I said before was really sickened by dairy and meat together so you can imagine how he felt when his good friend Barney, the son of an opera singer, invited him over for dinner. He used to tell us he walked in the door and smelled beef cooking. He saw the food and looked forward to dinner when all of a sudden his friend put sour cream into the meat for Beef Stroganoff. My father couldn’t believe it and his stomach turned. We always laughed at this story.

My maternal grandfather used to gather us all together on holidays and especially at Hannukah he would give out coins to all the grandchildren. My grandmother used to cook for my family every Friday and we would have dinner over at her place. When I was little I used to stay over and in the morning I would watch cartoons. She would make me a sandwich from the leftover chicken on homemade challah to take to the movies. I always went to the movies and ate my sandwich there watching cartoons, previews, the newsreel, and two big features. We walked to the movie theater, which was a couple of big blocks away without our parents and we were only eight or nine.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. See you next Sunday.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at


1 comment:

Susan Bernhardt said...

These were such intriguing posts about your families. Thank you so much for a great, Sunday morning read.

Curl up with a killer – Cozy Mysteries
The Ginseng Conspiracy by Susan Bernhardt