Friday, August 3, 2007

my little eskimo


dear web journal,

since finishing up my antonia (which was really good, btw), i keep thinking back on a particular passage of the novel:

`So was my mother's father,' murmured Lena, `but that's all the good it does us! My father's father was smart, too, but he was wild. He married a Lapp. I guess that's what's the matter with me; they say Lapp blood will out.'

`A real Lapp, Lena?' I exclaimed. `The kind that wear skins?'

`I don't know if she wore skins, but she was a Lapps all right, and his folks felt dreadful about it. He was sent up North on some government job he had, and fell in with her. He would marry her.'

`But I thought Lapland women were fat and ugly, and had squint eyes, like Chinese?' I objected.

`I don't know, maybe. There must be something mighty taking about the Lapp girls, though; mother says the Norwegians up North are always afraid their boys will run after them.'

sometimes when my husband describes me, he does so with an emphasis on my native american heritage. and to be fair, if i am anything, i am mostly native american, as it comes from both sides of my family. paternally and maternally, though, i come from generations of mixed race marriages, of which i am very proud. there’s something to be said about two people meeting, falling in love, and publicly declaring their affection, despite longstanding taboo of racially heterogenous unions. and karl, a full blooded scandinavian, has something for girls with darker complexions. lucky me. not only do i get him, i also get to be part of that history.

this is also why i really enjoyed a family reunion story recently told by a co-worker of mine. her family, ethnically german/scotts-irish, can trace their early history to the pacific northwest, including alaska. like characters in my antonia, two of her uncles, living and working in northern alaska married yupik women. one of these uncles calls his wife, “my little eskimo.” there is something so tender about that, i fear saying anything more about it.

**painting, in-jun 1, courtesy of nicholas kashian

1 comment:

ratsesssss said...

in elementary school i knew this guy who was ethnically eskimo (inuit, i know) but i didn't know his name so i just called him eskimo all the time. he had a little brother in like 1st or 2nd grade who would always get mad at me when i, as the last in line, called him "out" at tether ball...he would try to fight me but his fists were puny and i ignored it. to cut a long story short, we got married, so i relate to this entry 100%.