Marta Maria

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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rulli Rulli Pomm Pomm

This is Marta and her friend Paul. Paul is just a few months younger than Marta but they communicate like they are twins. They are both energetic with a love for physical activity and pushing the limits of what they are allowed to do.

One nice thing about Paul is that he only speaks Estonian. This gives Marta the opportunity to play with another child in her mother language (as opposed to her father language). He also si willing to play along with Marta's need for non-stop action.

Sometimes though things get out of hand. Marta usually likes to tease Paul about his possessions and Paul gets very upset. He will then try to hit Marta, and the whole situation will end in a big puddle of tears and emotions. Their favorite word is "oma" which means "own" - so they'll go back and forth "Pauli oma" (Paul's own thing) "No, see on Marta oma" (no, this is Marta's own thing) until BOOM!

This last weekend they even got in a fight over some deer. We were at paul's grandmother and grandfather's house in upstate New York and saw some deer. "Vaata kitsad!" (look goats!) Paul said. "Ei ole kitsad, on põder" (they aren't goats, they're moose" Marta answered. "Kitsad" "Põdrad" "Kitsad" "Põdrad" "Kitsad" "Põdrad" - finally one of them started crying and the other started screaming. They were both wrong though. The right word for these kind of deer is "Hirve."

Watching them both is exhausting. First they are playing together - so you approach them like a referee, waiting for one of them to foul the other. Then they split up. One runs this way, the other runs that way.

Epp made up a song for Paul - who is a typical boy and loves cars. It goes "rulli rulli rulli pomm pomm." I am not sure exactly what it means. But both Paul and Marta
like to sing it together during thier adventures.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Spoiled Rotten

Every time Marta goes to Mimi and Papa's house, it's the same story. Marta gets taken out for pizza, and later, she is treated to some carvel ice cream. I wonder if it's because my folks think that if they can't get her to sleep the old fashioned way, they can feed her until she passes out.

Or maybe, it's just because my folks like to eat, and want to share their love of food with their only grandchild. Or maybe it's really because they are spoiling her rotten, and always have spoiled her, with gifts, clothes, and personal pizzas.

I think it might be all of the above, and I have to say, I'm a bit jealous. My grandparents were not the caricatured American grandparents (which are what my parents are becoming).

One grandfather was deceased. He indulged me with his genetics (of all my grandparents I look most like him).

The other grandfather - Jerry - well, he was a bit anxious. He indulged me with colorful vocabulary, like the word "floozy," or bags of coins he hid in his office and then told me to find.

Grandma Peg? She indulged me alright - in stories of southern poverty, wiping your rear with corncobs and the Sears catalog and, of course, stressing that I should get an education and drink a lot of water.

My Mom's mom? She made sure I ate fattening and good foods whenever I was at her house and made sure I drank a lot of sweet lemonade, but there were no personal pizzas or small buckets full of ice cream. She had eight other grandkids to worry about - and I was in the middle.

Marta is a lucky girl to be spoiled so rotten. :)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

English Roots

Sometimes when I meet a person from the UK I tell them that I too have roots that extend back to their blessed isle. And the question that always follows is, "Oh yeah, from where?" - as if British people from Liverpool were any different from British people in Brighton. I try to explain to these poor chaps that our English roots came over long before limeys found a predilection for the exquisite green citrus fruit. But, being nosy by nature, I decided to think about it, and dig in, and try to find an answer to this question. Where oh where did my limey blood spring from? Are there actual places in England where long distant relatives of mine, and Marta's, live - watching East Enders and thinking Manchester U. It's possible. We're all relatives right?

But the history of our English roots is pretty fascinating. To set the stage let me take you back in time to the first half of the 17th Century. Better yet - go rent New World starring Colin Farrell and Christian Bale. You won't regret it. This was the world of our English roots - hacking their way into the wilderness south from Jamestown into what is now the indepent city of Suffolk, Virginia, Gates County, North Carolina, and Southampton County, Virginia. This area - part of what is called Tidewater Virginia - was settled during the 17th Century by English colonists.

These were an ambitious, deeply religious people - though not as religious as the Puritans of Massachusetts. Still - each family multiplied greatly with each generation. One man could have six or seven sons and five daughters and so on and so on. It is for this reason that Marta and I are related to our fair share of famous southerners - George Durant the "father of North Carolina" is among our forebears. We're related to - as far as I know - two sons of the south that became presidents, too. Both Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Baines Johnson are distant cousins of ours.

When it comes to chopping this ancient lineage up, it really comes down to a cast of hundreds of settlers, although in-breeding definitely makes the family tree smaller than it would appear. But among the settlers I can say for a fact that most came from three places in England - starting with the West Country - Sommerset, Devon, and Cornwall.

The second area where many settlers in our family came from was Yorkshire and Northumbria in England. While Yorkshire has had immense Scandinavian influence throughout the years, the West Country was the last stronghold of the Celtic Britons following the Anglo-Saxon invasion. Finally, a place that many came from wasn't even English. It was Wales. Most of our relatives come from these three places.

The Pittmans and Howells (two of the closest names in our English side) came originally from Wales. The first Howell in our part of Virginia was named Etheldred Howell. He was from what is now Flintshire in northern Wales. The first Pittman was Captain Thomas Pittman - and he is probably the most symbolic of the settlers.

Thomas Pittman was born in Monmouthshire, Wales in 1614. He was in Virginia by 1650 and was a captain in the militia there. Living on the Virginian frontier at a time of great instability he - and most of the men that we claim as English forebears - were involved in a very famous rebellion - Bacon's Rebellion a colonial uprising by the back country farmers against the wealthier farmers of Virginia, a full-scale class rebellion.

The rebellion was put down and Thomas Pittman was pardoned for his actions, as were many of our English forefathers. I have to say that - as of that moment - it seems like they stopped being English though, and started being fully American.

After that there were revolutions and civil wars and ... by the time I came around any connection to the land of Monty Python was long forgotten. About a fifth to a quarter of my ancestors are limeys though - making the influence in Marta even less. But we speak their language don't we? That perhaps is their greatest legacy of all.