Tuesday 28 June 2011

A Story Purely for Your Entertainment

Because it is true that we are influenced by the way we were raised, and because mine was not a typical upbringing, I thought it might be fun to share a little slightly made up family history with you.

It all starts with my great-grandmother, Gran MacCrappy.  Gran, or Ginny MacCrappy, was born to Jane and John MacCrappy around the end of WWI in Glasgow, Scotland.  The MacCrappy's had seven children and lived in abject poverty and so when she was 13, John MacCrappy decided to pack up the MacCrappy clan and move on to a better place; a "Land of Opportunity".  That land was Halifax.

When Gran was 14 she met a jaunty French Canadian, Guy LeMerde.  At 15 she was pregnant with their first child and when she was 16, just before that baby was born, they got married.  A few years later, having little opportunity in the "Land of Opportunity" that was Halifax, Guy and Gran moved to Anytown in southern Ontario, which is where the rest of the MacCrappy-LeMerde clan reside to this day.  By the time they arrived in Anytown, they got bitch-slapped by the Great Depression.

Gran raised 6 kids through that decade.  She used to tell me stories about feeding them a meal that consisted of a single potato or of Christmases where the whole family would get to enjoy the treat of a single orange.  Gran was a tough, tough lady.  She would have kicked ass on Survivor.  Not because she had any wilderness skills but for the sheer determination of her collective Scottish ancestry.  These were a people who learned to eke out a living on a windy, rainy rock in the Atlantic.  These were a people who had learned to live in dirt and make weapons out of rocks and logs. These were a people whose idea of a celebration involves getting blind drunk and then eating the guts of a sheep mixed up with oatmeal and stuffed into some more guts. 

Gran got a job working as a waitress in a club where famous people, mostly comedians and jazz musicians, would sometimes party after their performances.  She told me about showing the Marx brothers how to do the Highland fling or telling colourful jokes to Jack Benny.  Gran was tough but she was a lot of fun and, if you could get through her accent, she was very funny.  Having been born in Scotland and then moving to the only other part of the world with a pocket of Gaelic speaking people, Gran retained her heavy accent.  This meant that I grew up hearing such gems as:

"Ach, lass luikit'yer arse'n thaim knick'rrrs.  Eff et asn't sex ax'andos weyde."

Which, roughly translated means, "Your ass looks fat in those jeans."


"Ach, Lasseh!  Fer Chreisssseeek, pitoan eh grrrrrdl. Jaaaayziz!  At leeest sookin yer stummach summat. Huv ye nae preyde?"

Which, roughly translated means: "I see that you are in need of supportive undergarments."  This was a tirade she unleashed on my mother once as Gran was being introduced to her new boyfriend.  And of course when she objected out of sheer embarrassment Gran would just say:

"Bu' esss trew,  Till th'trewth 'n sheem th'de'ill"

(Something to the effect of "honesty is the best policy and to hell with tact.")

Like I said: hilarious.

Guy and Ginny got through the Great Depression in one piece with all six of their children alive.  After WWII my grandmother, Maggie LeMerde got a job as a waitress which was how she met a young man named Karl Badasz.  Karl was a world class art thief who worked freelance for the Hungarian Mob.  The HM, as we locals know them, deal mostly with fine works of art.  Also they were in the just-fell-off-the-truck black market.

With his dashing good looks and cat-like reflexes, Karl cut a most romantic figure and Maggie would never get over him.  They got married and quickly produced four daughters, one right after the other.  Unfortunately for Karl, his luck eventually ran out and he was arrested by Interpol trying to smuggle a lost Picasso through customs.  He was never seen or heard from again.  Maggie was left to raise their four girls alone.  She dated a little but never married.

Her oldest daughter, Lynn Badasz, or Mummy Dearest spent the early to mid '70's as a hippie.  Her summers consisted of working as a waitress by night and living on nudist hippie communes by day.  Canadian nudist hippie communes were, at that time, seasonal.  Since then they have put up more permanent establishments in which they have installed central heating.  She and her friends spent their days painting peoples' bodies, smoking from the communal hookah and living in a tree house.  They slept in hammocks and watched movies projected onto the shit-house walls that had been painted white for that purpose.

1975 was Mummy's summer of love; the summer she met my father, Stu.  Just "Stu"; no last name.  He had given up all the shackles of The Man.  She said she liked Stu for his long curly hair and his Afghan dog named "Omar".  At the end of the summer he gave her a turquoise ring and they made passionate love in their tree house to Van Morrison's "Moondance" album and that, my friends, is the magical TMI story my mother tells me of my own conception. 

Yes, it is true.  I am a bona fide, hippie love-child.  I still have the ring.  Also, I very narrowly escaped being named "Jello Biafra" through the sobering effects of natural child-birth.  Which is a good thing because there is nothing more annoying than choosing a unique baby name only to have someone else steal it from you just a few years later.  Let's just say they ended up with something along the lines of Jennifer Badasz.

Things didn't really work out between my parents but they're still cool.  My mom met someone else and so I grew up with my two step-brothers (I hate that word...for us it's a technicality.  They are my brothers.) and their dad.  Today Mummy and Step-Dad are living happily apart, in different countries.  Stu has an art store downtown, and he still has his long curly hair.  We hang out from time to time.  Omar died over twenty years ago.

And that is the mostly-true story of my not-so typical ancestry.  Some of it falls naturally under my 15% bullshit disclaimer but, I'll let you sort that out for yourselves.  The most important thing here is that you walk away slightly entertained.  After all, why let the truth stand in the way of a good story?

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