Our Family Biographies

I, Abel, once called Abraham, observe my grandchildren, the four children of my son Felix and his wife Julia. I, like the patriarch Jacob, bless my grandchildren, and wish to see that at least one of them can carry on the birthright.These offspring have formed their own tapestries with common family strands, though laid across are the threads of each individual — the colors and the patterns of their own traits, endowments, and the varied influences upon their lives. I see in all of the family tapestries many threads: purple strands of pride in their accomplishments and their prestige; metallic bands of dominance; white threads of morality and thrift braided together; brown velvet strands of acquisitiveness — the pleasure of owning objects of beauty. There are also woven into the warp, cords of searing red anger — the condemnation of others. And there are continuing orange strands of competitiveness. Strung next to the orange strands, I see the chartreuse threads of envy, rough and jagged. Also in the family tapestries, I see bright pink threads pulling tight: “Love me, love me,” they demand. Sometimes clouding other hues, gossamer gray strands form muted patterns of depression and of silence. Furthermore, my grandchildren, the shuttle has woven many of the threads and designs of your tapestries into repeated spirals, pointing inward, pointing inward.

When I, Abel, view the whole, the complete tapestry of my four grandchildren, I bless them and their memory although I could not give to any of the them the precious birthright. There are, however, strong threads in this family tapestry in spite of the discordant strands.

It is now my fervent hope, that you of the following generations will look upon these tapestries as weavings of strong cords, a mixed heritage to appreciate and to understand. Then I hope, with God’s help, you will be able to develop your own tapestries with patterns of blessings.

Now, for our descendants, I shall invoke a Psalm of David as my prayer:

Behold, how good and how pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity….As the dew of Herman, and the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forevermore.

In your tapestry Caroline, I see fresh colors woven across the family warp threads. You have created beautiful designs, Caroline. Across the weft, there are wide bands of deep blue-green flax, and I see an array of bright colors: lemon-yellow, ultramarine blue, and the soft green of spring leaves — these colors dotted through your tapestry like an impressionist painting. You, Caroline, were a lively curious child with light brown hair and blue-green eyes. You loved to walk in the woods, and to paddle a skiff on a bayou among the groves of cypress. When you grew to be a woman, you married and had three children. You planted a garden, and you built a home in the country where you and your family grew herbs, raised chickens, and walked together among the pine trees.

At home, your family enjoyed the taste of fresh herbs or a salad ring of carrots. Also, in your tapestry, Caroline, there are small specks of warm hues — orange, and flecks of gold among the greens and blues — forming a flowing horizontal landscape. One can imagine in this textured weave, a lake, cypress trees, and water-lilies, like the Drysdale mural in your dining room or the Monet in the hall. I can almost smell the scent of the Sweet Olive from your garden. Your children and grandchildren could reflect on your taste among the leather bound books, the works of art, the objects from your travels, and the magnolias arranged in a blue-green bowl on the desk in your living-room.

However, underneath the cool green bands of flax, and the pleasant hues of your tapestry, family warp threads remain: brown velvet strands appeared as you grasped possessions. I see too, red threads of anger — sometimes sharp and strong — and sometimes choked by gray wisps of silent depression. Although most of the colors and textures of your tapestry portray a pleasing view, there are among the patterns, harsh pink strands that spin into spirals — coiling into concentric circles.

As you grew older, colors faded. Nevertheless, across the lower part of your tapestry, dark crimson streaks across the weave — you felt shame when your husband’s career ended in disgrace. Cool gray threads of silence were your way to cope. The landscape scenes remain, but some grew fainter as your eyesight blurred. Despite dark threads of tragedy and paler shades, the bright colors of the world are in your tapestry.

One night a friend whispered in your ear:

“Though the years your strength may plunder, May you not lose your curiosity and your wonder.” Even in old age, Caroline, you never lost your enthusiasm — you were never bored with life./

You were the eldest son of Felix and Julia. Your mother welcomed you and you clung to her with a tightly twisted cord, a tiny rival of your father. George, I see that the warp threads of your tapestry are taut — purple threads of pride and white strings of morality, like thin lips pulled tight over the teeth.

Beyond the fringed edges of your tapestry, the shuttle has woven strands of brown and beige herringbone, rough irregular threads of mischief and childhood rebellion — often couched with the red specks of anger. From the time of your adolescence, George, your tapestry displayed awkward uneven patterns. At school you could not coordinate Spenserian script or run at a graceful pace. You withdrew; the colors of your tapestry darkened as sad gray pessimism descended: your eyes blurred behind thick glasses, your cheeks became scarred, and your legs like sticks, were knobbed at the knees. Your disappointment drew the purple threads of pride into a twist with the chartreuse strands of envy, envy of your father’s honors. Yet there are a few fuchsia cords winding through the weft: “George is so good to me,” your mother said.

At last you grew to manhood. Yarns of dark blue and orange-red wove across metallic bands and white strings of the warp, as your anger championed the legal rights of others. Yet when you spoke what you thought truth in your punctilious way, the sharpness of your words often cut the threads of your tapestry.

As the eldest son, you wished to be the pere de famille, but you could not take that role. You wanted others to heed your advice, but advising others required understanding based on love. Now looking at your tapestry, George, I see that there are few soft pastels of compassion, but rather most of the hues are dark and harsh.

However, across the middle of your tapestry, are dots of cinnamon brown, your childhood sense of fun and mischief as you played with your nieces and nephews who called you “Unk.” You married late, and your marriage loosened tight threads, softening the sharpness of your tapestry’s later patterns. George, you died in your middle years, leaving then a grieving wife who admired you. Where some saw cruelty, she saw beauty in the flaming reds, in the strands of purple, in the dark hues, and even in the rigid patterns of your tapestry.

Julius, your part of the family tapestry lies small beneath the stronger threads of your brother George’s woven pattern. Your warp threads continue in a warmer hue, fringed in naive waves. A soft brown strand of acquisitiveness and red streaks of rage are prominent in your tapestry. Yet woven across are golden and turquoise threads — your love of beautiful surroundings, and your artistic talents. You could paint a watercolor or design an Art Deco building. However, some of these strands are cut short because you withdraw, inarticulate, silent.

Julius, your tapestry too has pale pink threads pulled very tight. “No one appreciates me,” you said. Your Aunt Stella understood, you were the unsure middle child. Vertical strands of ice blue crossed red threads in your tapestry as anger tightened your breath to asthma. Julius, you did become a mischievous, bespectacled child, teasing, scheming with your brother George. Later, as you grew to manhood, you found joy in college friends and the admiration of girls — threads of primary colors danced across your tapestry.

Yet, all these colors swirl into concentric circles, swirling, swirling inward. You could not perceive the needs and feelings of others. You thought that your opinion was always right. Yes, you cared, you admired your wives, but you demanded their complete attention. Did you really know the best furniture arrangement for your daughter’s room, a name for the new baby, or where your son, and then your grand-son should attend school? And when your children frustrated you, your anger flared. Sometimes you indulged in cruel mocking: “Can’t the cat look at the queen?”– a zigzag pattern like lightning streaks across your tapestry, taunting, frustrating the eye. Later in your life, a black weave of tragedy and death haunted you, embittered you. When your beloved wife Vera died in an accident, your brown hair turned to white.

As you aged and colors paled; you could not tolerate any failure of your body or your heart. Like your Uncle Jule, you would not accept growing old with grace. You too shortened your life, because you could not accept a slower pace. As your tapestry neared completion, how sad that gossamer gray threads were woven with red strands of anger and pink threads of need — swirling, cutting across the pleasant colors and symmetry of your tapestry. You demanded — you condemned. You requested the gray-white ash of cremation. Julius, you left your descendants a legacy, but at the end instead of peace and wholeness, you felt despair.

© 2024 Our Family Biographies

Accordion content.

I, Abel, once called Abraham, observe my grandchildren, the four children of my son Felix and his wife Julia. I, like the patriarch Jacob, bless my grandchildren, and wish to see that at least one of them can carry on the birthright. These offspring form family tapestries with common strands, though laid across are individual threads — the colors and the patterns of their own traits, endowments and the varied influences upon their lives. I see in all of the family tapestries many threads: purple strands of pride in their accomplishments and their prestige; metallic bands of dominance; white threads of morality and thrift braided together; brown velvet strands of acquisitiveness –the pleasure of owning objects of beauty. There are also woven into the warp, threads of searing red anger — the condemnation of others. And there are continuing orange strands of competitiveness. Strung next to the orange strands, I see the chartreuse threads of envy, rough and ugly. Also in the family tapestries, I see some bright pink threads pulling tight: “Love me, love me,” they demand. Finally, gossamer gray strands of depression and of silence, form muted patterns through the tapestries and these gray shapes sometime cloud the other hues. Futhermore, my grandchildren, many of the threads and textures of your tapestries, are woven into repeated spirals, pointing inward, pointing inward.

It is now my fervent hope, that you of the following generations will look upon these family tapestries as weavings of strong cords, a mixed heritage to appreciate and to understand. Then, I hope, with God’s help, you will be able to develop your own tapestries with patterns of blessing.

Abel = Avram, meaning,”father of a multitude.”

Felix = Joseph, meaning,”God will increase.”

Julia = Leah, meaning,” to be weary.”

George =Gerson, meaning,”stranger.”

Julius = Isaac, meaning,”he will laugh.”

Caroline = Dinah, meaning,”judgement.”

Ruth = Trudy, from Gertrude, meaning,”battlemaid.”

I grew up in a sheltered southern environment, a fantasy land of Mardi Gras balls, where I sometimes felt like an outsider watching the royal procession. I was born in New Orleans, attended college there, remained there until I married after World War II. Then, with my chemist husband, we lived in many cities: Atlanta, Buffalo, Toledo, Ohio, and several New Jersey towns. When our four children were almost grown, I returned to school to become a professional, a social worker with a master’s degree, instead of perennial volunteer.

In 1982, I left my job as a clinical social worker and my husband took early retirement. Although we started a small business of selling antique American art pottery, and I had hobbies and volunteer work, I still missed professional life. One of my interests was genealogy — another, storytelling. Since my family had been in America from before the Civil War, some even before the Revolution, how fascinating it would be to write a family history, to be able to narrate family anecdotes.

Therefore I decided that I would like to take a writing course at a local university, Drew, in Madison, N.J. Although I had a master’s degree, I had to persuade the administration to allow me to register for an undergraduate course in non- fiction writing. I became a senior member in a class of fifteen undergraduates, each with her personal computer. At the college, I learned from a demanding curriculum, from a challenging teacher, and from my fellow students. They also learned from me. Thus began my writing career — I even became a published author.