This is a filtered history of my mother’s side of the family. Much of it isn’t true, -- but that makes it more true than true -- it’s the stuff in my head that’s accumulated over an extended childhood. It’s limited by what I could figure out without asking any questions – mostly heard things and rough guesses.
My grandmother was a Jones. The Jones’s were people who gave you good advice instead of presents for Christmas. Like the Welsh they descended from, their meanness was not polluted by fun – they may have pulled wings from flies, but they didn’t giggle when they did it. They became middle class by not spending any money, and that’s how they planned to stay there. When they spoke, they didn’t use extra vowels and their verbs were hard without being active. Cautious and deliberate, they weighed and measured twice. They used their voice to cut. They did a lot of cutting. They lived inside the pale – they posted a guard at each and every fence of attitude they claimed. They defined tolerate as, “putting up with other peoples shit.” They didn’t’ put up with other peoples shit. People mistook their quiet as a form of reflection instead of what it was – a conservation of the body electric that they used to prickle and shock those that thought them approachable.
I only remember meeting one Jones in my life – she was my elderly great-grandmother who was living in Richmond towards the end of her life. I didn’t actually meet her – I was told to wait in the car while my parents went in. I remember it was a short visit. (see above.)
Grandmother married a Burnett. Not just any Burnett, but the Burnett himself. Burnett’s do not leave a history, each generation makes their own – they have sprung fully made, complete and unto themselves since time began. Always and only -- the now and him, repeated endlessly in a circle of one.
Burnett’s are a cruel bunch, but given the choice between cruelty or humor, they tend towards the funny – it’s really their saving grace and should never be underestimated when questions of their motivations come up.
Some believe that the Burnett’s are full of shit because they talk a lot. They are not – they are storytellers on par with Chaucer – they remember everything and then tell it as an honest story only colored by their point of view – though they don’t always color within the lines, or use appropriate paint colors.
Grandmother met Grandfather in Oklahoma. She may have fallen in love with him because of his humor or, maybe because of his solid sense of who he was. It might also have been to piss off her parents, or she might have just been physically attracted to him -- though when evaluating grandparents this train of thought gets squirmy and barely imaginable.
Much to her horror, I think, she ended up with Himself in all his glory. To both his credit and shame, I don’t think he ever changed a bit in his whole life -- I don’t think it’s in a Burnett’s nature to.
Continued in part 2 -- Booger Holler to Tulsa