My biological grandmother on my mom’s side is a professional tarot card reader, also parole officer for the Los Angeles Police Department in the juvenile division. The thought of this conjures up an image of very sad children sitting across from a mercurial, large-shouldered woman as she predicts their futures. I’m sure this doesn’t actually happen, but I often wonder how much her clairvoyance plays a part in her judgment. Even the true soothsayer is only a conduit for herself. We’re just lucky so many mirrors look the same.
When people use “biological” as a quantifier, they’re insinuating that there are indeed blood ties, but ones which they wished would have been thinned with much alcohol. I don’t know my grandmother. I met her once for twenty minutes in an Applebee’s when I was eleven, and she told me she was a dancer, too, and so was my mother, and she assured me I looked just like her when grandma was my age. I think she got potato skins, and at the time I was very hot on the Veggie Patch Pizza™, because I thought erroneously that it was a health food item. We should really teach nutrition to children in the Midwest, a friend of mine who grew up in Iowa used to eat buckets of white rice with sweet and sour sauce, because she thought “bland” equated to “nutritious.”
When you’re eleven, and more than half of your family has a “biological” qualifier, the number of meetings that take place in an Applebee’s can be astounding. If I were hired to dream up their new ad campaign, it would be “For Those Moments When the Food Is Inconsequential.” I’m not sure what my mother ordered, or if she even finished the food. The details are murky, but I can see my grandmother’s face, if only because the three of us together could have been age-progressed images of a single person. I only hope that I did not inherit the perm gene.
My grandmother is said to be descendant from Roma. Gypsies, you may say, but you’d be as erroneous as a Veggie Patch Pizza™. By default, I’m Roma too, so are my sisters and mother and aunts. My step-grandmother, the woman who raised me, used to tell me that I was Lithuanian like her, because she raised me, as though proximity could conquer biology and own it. Evolutionary principles suggest that’s a possibility, but until then, I’m a Gypsy like the rest of them.
The Roma are known for owning nothing, for wanting nothing, except for their fair share. Europeans tend to have a ravenous reaction to Roma, because the kind of gypsy we imagine from The Hunchback of Notre Dame is still alive and well there and still getting burned and beaten out of their homes for being shifty nomads. There are thieves among them, of course, but there are thieves among every class. Wall Street is the easy example. Roma are born into the trade; what’s Wall Street’s excuse?
When I was born, my mother cut off ties for good with my grandmother, but sometimes my grandmother would call my mother up, and she would tell her that so-and-so was pregnant or so-and-so had a heart condition, and she was always right. It must be a strange thing to never hear from your mother your whole life, then get a call in the late evenings, her telling you matter-of-fact what her tarot cards had said about your relationship as easily as others might say, “How’s it goin’.” Greek mythology is mostly pretty clear-cut about Cassandra, but sources disagree on whether or not she had children. Probably doesn’t matter. Nobody talks about Cassandra’s babies, only the future she saw and couldn’t change.