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.
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.