Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Paying my crazy dues on time

One of the things about being from a small, largely Polish town in Michigan is that you learn awfully quickly that the rest of the world does not hold the same feelings about polka music you do. By descent my father is German and Swiss, and my mother is Norwegian, Scots-Irish and French. There is no Polish anywhere in our family except that all my aunts and uncles on my dad's side married Polish. And let me tell you, they already had a gigantic family to start with, but the marriages increased everything exponentially so basically everybody is related to everyone else. (There is a cemetery in one small town north of where I'm from where almost everybody in it is related to me.) I have cousins that I'm related to twice by two different marriages. At one recent family wedding we had a table, and everybody at that table was directly related to me - not second cousins or anything - and there were 80 of us. (My sister and brother weren't even there.) One of my cousins had 1,000 people to her wedding (ok, yes, that is tacky).

So you basically take this large noisy family and throw in a cause for celebration and you get one of my family's weddings. You start out at the church and after sufficient kneeling and crossing and genuflecting you go to the receiving line and then to the huge reception. At the reception there is always polka music, because polka music is happy music and a wedding is a happy time. You see your cousin's new father-in-law spinning around the floor to some Frankie Yankovic and you can't believe this old guy can move so fast, so gracefully, so happily. He's the king, the guy the accordions and tubas play for, spinning effortlessly and smiling, laughing, dancing with his wife. You sit in your chair doing the armchair polka and wish as a kid you'd done more than dance on your uncles' feet. Because for five seconds it would be fun to move that fast, that gracefully, that happily.

But there is kitsch, and a lot of it. We laugh at polka music too, at death-by-accordion jokes and the chicken dance (though we do it) and all sorts of madness that goes with it. All the kids laughed at it - we didn't steal the kishka, we sure didn't eat the kishka, but we bellowed at the top of our lungs about who stole it. (This was a huge bonding ritual between me and my cousins during our childhood. There were 15 of us not counting eventual spouses, noisy party.) The last half-hour or so of the family weddings is always polka music. Because you should leave a party feeling happy. We always do.

So, think today just a little about the Six Fat Dutchmen or Frankie Y or some of the other polka greats. Think about what a nerd I am to carry this around with me still...but you know, when I'm in a bad mood I just sing about the kishka and I feel better. Just thinking of some silly or happy music from a moment when you knew the people you love are as crazy as you are...that makes things better.

I finished the first heel on my Pomatomus socks and today is the day to knit the second. I have pictures but I woke up late so they will have to wait. Happy Tuesday.


Blogger Kathleen said...

I am descendent of all Irish grandparents. All four immigrated from Ireland. We had Polka bands and/or polka music at all the weddings! :)

12:57 PM  
Blogger TK said...

My cousin didn't pay the DJ at her wedding because he didn't play any polkas, even though she specifically asked for them. Even though she argued with him during the reception, he still didn't play any. She even brought her own CDs. The best thing about Polka is that anyone can dance to it, even if you can't dance. No one cares if you mess up; it's all about the fun. Thanks for the reminder that it makes one happy. I think I'll put some on right now.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

I love Polka! It's such a great, fun, fast dance, and really, anyone can do it. Long live the polka! Great post!!

9:34 PM  
Anonymous erica said...

okay, I have to ask, (as I am from from the Mitten state) what town did you grow up in? I grew up right beside Hamtramck in Detroit, consuming dill pickle soup and pierogi. I remember driving north Alpena way and finding nothing but Polka on the radio in the 60 's and 70's. And Thanks for the kitty photos, most lovely.
Be well,

11:59 AM  
Blogger Knitting Bandit said...

My son has has a friend who is an exchange student from Poland, she will be celebrating her 18 birthday here and I thought it might be nice if she could have a "taste" a home for her birthday. DO you know of any traditional Polish food that a non cook could easily make or someplace in Lansing to buy traditional Polish food? Do you know how any Polish birthday traditions?

9:11 AM  

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