Our Family Tree
My daughter, Alexis, was doing a “family tree” project in school. She had to write about which relatives were the most important to our family, and asked me who I thought that was.
I told her, “I suppose that depends on how far you want to go back.”
We talked about Great, Great, Great, Great Grandpa Patrick William Dunne, born in 1777. One night, he sat his wife and 10 kids down in their Queens County, Ireland home, and told them you only live once. He said he wanted a better life for his family – and his children’s children. He said his gut said to chuck it all and sail to America. They left everything and everyone they knew, clung on to each other for months in the well of a lumber boat – and arrived safely on the shores of Canada.
Alexis asked, “So Grandpa Patrick’s our oldest relative?” I said, “Well, not exactly.”
I told her about Auley O’Duinn back in 1,000 AD, and about a whole church-full of Dunne Catholic priests — married and unmarried — in the Dark Ages.
She started fading out as I started lovely stories about the Dunnes of Hy-Regan, who made home in Iregan; and the 700 Ui Failge men, women and kids of the Ui Dunlainge tribe. I told her to imagine their homes deep in the Slieve Bloom Mountains along the River Barrow – keeping a low profile from those bastard, war-monger, slaughtering Vikings.
By this time, my fun-facts-to-know-and-tell was boring the hell out of her, and I’m sure they are you, too.
But I was just getting rolling yacking about those pre-Dunne Liffey Celts back in 900 B.C, who were top-notch iron-ore miners. How they wanted a better life, and packed up their families and headed through northern France and Belgium before smelling that long, green Irish grass for the first time.
By this time, I was walking right behind Alexis as she was trying to get away to the family room. She was deep in a trance on her Mario Nintendo tennis game, but I just kept babbling anyways.
I talked about what characters those Neolithic farmers were that came to Ireland about 5,500 years ago, but how I wasn’t sure which one of ‘em in particular had that good, thick-green Dunne blood.
And I admitted I was even less sure which Dunnes were Larnians; Mesolithic Cro-Magnons from Northern Africa in the Stone Age about 8,500 years ago.
Alexis asked me if Cro-Magnons were black. “Yep, they were,” I said. She said, “Does that mean I’m an African American?”
“Sure does,” I said.
I told her that idea may come in handy when it’s time to apply for college in a few years.
I momentarily had her attention back.
We talked about million-year-old Aunt Neanderthalensis and the poor eating manners of Uncle Ardipithecus Ramidus from about 5 million years ago.
I said the truth of the matter is, we have to give credit where credit is due.
We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the trilobites from the Cambrian explosion about 500 million years ago. I said that’s where we undoubtedly got our creative genes. We talked about how the trilobites were probably the most imaginative and eclectic group of living creatures ever to enjoy our home here on earth. So maybe that makes them our most important relatives.
But I couldn’t leave out the tetrapods, the first land animals to crawl out of the sea. Alexis is a good swimmer; maybe she’s got some tetropod genes tucked away in there.
I was trying to talk over Alexis’ electric toothbrush as she got ready for bed when I was going on about the first slit fish, and how they had the first set of eyes – I’d guess the first Dunnes with the gift of sight. Where would we be without sight? I recommended the slit fish as a strong contender for “most important relative.”
As I tucked her in, we thanked God for slit fish, the trilobites, the tetrapods, the Larnians, the Liffey Celts, the wild-and-crazy Ui Dunlainge tribe, and sweet ol’ Auley O’Duinn.
I kissed her goodnight on the head and asked her who she thought was the most important relative – and who she was going to focus her report on.
As she rolled over to fall asleep she mumbled…