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~Inherited Love~

 

 

 

Research has shown that our genes afford us a predisposition to certain personality traits. Of course, some traits can be learned/trained. But what about a propensity for being a romantic? For finding love and doing anything for that love?

I always knew I was a romantic soul and have been lucky to experience true love twice. The first time I was a young woman and the second time, a grown woman. But I never thought about my romantic nature being inherited until recently, when my dad was telling my daughter's boyfriend about his grandfather. Now it just so happens that this grandfather (my great grandfather) is who I am named after. His name was Maxwell Suzer. My dad told me about a picture he had once seen of his grandfather, in a cowboy hat and wearing a red bandana around his neck. Sadly, this picture is gone, but the story survives. Let me tell you his tale and how this inherited trait for love has clearly been passed down through the generations.

But let me first back up and air my historical guilt. The beginning of this story takes place in South Africa, Johannesburg area, to be exact. I'm not sure just how much my great grandfather participated in the subjugation of the African people, but I am pretty certain he must have played a role. I was told he treated everyone extremely well and I only hope that can be true. Based on his sense of adventure, spirit and love, I think it might be. Anyway, enough of my selfish-guilt-ridding-digression…back to love…the lovelier part of this story. So, my great grandfather, Maxwell, emigrated from Russia to South Africa. There is no need to ask why a Jewish man, and family, would want to leave Russia. History speaks on its own. He came to this new land with dreams of starting a new life. He began as an apprentice to a butcher, eventually worked and then bought land that the government was practically giving away. He started his own farm and was successful. But during the earlier years, when he first arrived, his cousin showed him a picture of a friend, a girl around fifteen years old. He told his cousin that he would marry that girl one day. Years later his cousin told him that this girl, now grown up, was engaged and going to get married. Maxwell was devastated. He got on his horse and literally rode it all night, across the plains of Africa, until he reached the girl. This "girl" was my great grandmother. Later they both emigrated to the United States. What survives as his legacy is this truly romantic act.

Now let me tell you about my father, Maxwell's grandson, and his love story with my mom. My dad was stationed in Germany during the Korean War. He was/is a very handsome man and many a lady swooned over him. In fact, one German girl came to the states to find him, only to find out he was married and his wife (my mom) was pregnant. But I jump ahead… When Larry (my dad) finally came home from his "difficult" service overseas, he did what any 20 something young man does - he went out and enjoyed himself. Living in NYC made that very easy to do. Larry lived on the Upper West Side of NYC, which was considered the wealthy neighborhood. One night he and his friends decided to "slum it" down in the Village, the Lower East Side of NYC. They crashed a few weddings and parties (this part of the story I only got to hear after I was thirty, when I was "old enough", according to my dad.) Later in the evening they saw two young girls stopping at a newspaper stand on the corner of Delancy Street. The streetlight above these two girls illuminated them as if they were under a spotlight. Larry turned to his friends and said that the one brunette had the best set of legs he had ever seen. Well, friends being friends, they dared Larry to strike up a conversation with her. He and his friends followed her into a pizza parlor and Larry, using his good looks, charm and very funny sense of humor, soon won her over. When he took her home that night, up to the walk up, fourth floor, one bedroom apartment she shared with her parents and sister, she was way past her curfew. At eighteen she was feisty, but she respected her father and was worried. She tried to sneak in, but her father opened the door wide and demanded to know who this young man was with his daughter. My father put out his hand and said, "Hello, sir. My name is Larry and I'm in love with your daughter." Three months later my parents were married.

No great love seems to go unchallenged and their romance was no different. Remember I told you about the different neighborhoods? Well, Larry's mother was not at all pleased that Larry had fallen in love with a girl from the Jewish "ghetto". She tried everything to undermine their marriage. And I mean EVERYTHING. But nothing worked. Larry, in an act of defiance, changed his surname as a statement to his family. 50+ years later my parents are still married and happier than ever.

My dad didn't have a son, but I guess I come as close to one as he could have - although I am very much a woman. However, I love sports, the outdoors and, like him, have a romantic nature that won't quit. I believe in it, write about it, dream about it and live it. I'm not sure what truly gets inherited, but I do know I have a natural tendency towards, and proudly accept ,the traits displayed from most of the men, and women, in my family - goodness, loyalty, kindness, generosity, spirit, integrity, work ethic, adventure and the belief in ROMANTIC LOVE.

Overall

I think this is a charming personal essay.  Your anecdotes make their point with the right light hearted (shall we say romantic) tone.  I can't help, however, wanting just a few more details and development for the romantic part of your great grandfather's story, probably a separate paragraph.  Your "guilt" disclaimer dominates, for one thing, and there isn't much of a coherent connection between seeing a picture and riding off to claim you grandmother.  As it is, it doesn't seem so much romantic as impulsive.

Then, I also want a bit more evidence of your own romanticism.  It's not very satisfying, as a story, for you to merely say you're romantic.  I'm not asking for proof, but a little more dramatic connection to the other stories. 

None of this is to say I didn't enjoy your essay, but I think I could have enjoyed it more.