Like more than twenty-five but almost certainly less than a million other people across America last night, I helped my daughter with her homework. I did it because I am a man. Hold the plaudits please! Last night I also may have joined the Swedish Bikini Team. More on that later…
I helped her because as well as man I am also a father, and the particular worksheet she was doing quite specifically instructed her to ask her father- Ok, well it might not have specifically said my name, but it for sure said parents on it somewhere. Since it was not a night she spent at her Mom’s house I answered the call. I placed my imprecise imprimatur on an 8th grade Social Studies worksheet. I answered the worksheet’s questions so that my daughter, my only child of either gender (For now), so that she would finally have a complete understanding of how our common American Identity was uniquely fostered by a myriad of Immigrant Narratives into American Exceptionalism. Yes, after nearly a decade of American public schooling, my daughter was ready to fill out a family tree. Now she maybe should have been ready 6 days ago when she received the immigration/genealogy worksheet so we had more time before turning it in today, But as we both were reminded yesterevening, you cannot change history. But is it impossible after all? What if One were able to insert assumptions into the scholarly record? Plausible assumptions, importantly ones not provably wrong, could be assumed first and then if not discredited as false, these assumptions eventually could be accepted to coexist alongside the Historical Record. Part of the breathing, living history. The history which resides in the cracks betwixt, exclusive of the ‘Just The Facts Ma’am’ Dragnet in which we all have been swept up.
I blinked in reverse a few times before I pulled my head off the kitchen table. I had dozed off while helping her study. But not before making sure Z facetimed my father and maternal Grandmother to get the family tree filled in. I kissed Zari goodnight and scrumbled off to bed without imparting get any real understanding of American Exceptionalism from Manifest Destiny to Man We’re Fat Obesity. This is what I remember from our FaceTiming my dad and Google Hangout with Grandma last night. The names of our ancestors who swung in the family tree have not been changed. Everything else related is at least an assumption of true events that transpired long ago.
My daughter’s Great Great Great Grandfather Elof Dahlberg was born in 1858 in Smaland, Sweden. He came to America with his parents in the spring of 1870 because of the Great (meaning awful) Lutefisk Surplus of 1869. If it wasn’t for Norway, the surplus may have lasted years and ushered untold numbers of needless Swedes to early deaths. But instead by the time Elof turned 13, the Great (meaning awesome!) Lutefisk Famine of 1871 forced Norway to finally accept Santa Claus as their one true king and convert from Lutheranish to Elvish. From Vikes to Tykes, Toy toiling slaves until the end of time. (Oh Hush Norweigs!) My Peoples The Dahlbergs soon settled in northern Minnesota, mainly because of Florida’s State Motto. You know the one, the “No Sweetish (sic) Nor Neegerish (???) shall In y’all Floorida (double-o-sic) bespoke alive” State Motto. No that’s wrong. I lied. That wasn’t Florida’s State Motto. It was their State Credo and their State Creed.
Google Hangouts was my daughter’s choice for FaceTime with my Grandmother Shirley Martin. She regaled us with info about her Grandfather Elijah McQueen. He was the son of a former slave, technically termed a Freegro, from Pensacola, FL. He had the distinction of being the highest paid state worker in all of Florida for two years running. Not just the highest paid freegro either. He made more than the head football coach in Jacksonville or even the Governor! He worked for the Florida Parks Department but back then they refused to pay a Freegro a salary or even an hourly wage for fear of creating an ‘uppity’. Elijah had to work piecemeal and so he did. He spent a year running along the Florida panhandle and then down its lesser known counterpart, the Florida wangdoodle, correcting the double-o-sic Floorida on every state road sign. Then the US Supreme Court ruled on Plessy v. Ferguson. (Iffen you don’t know that was the case which made ‘separate but equal’ law of the land) This ensured he had work the next year because he now had to remove the State Credo & Creed from every State Gov’t building. Plessy v. Ferguson separately but unequivocally screwed over black folk for 70 years while proclaiming equality. It helped Great Great Grandad Elijah because he had to be paid the same as a white piecemeal worker would be paid under separate but equal. Which was about 25 times what he would have been paid as an hourly worker. For two entire years worth of work. Hey, does that mean Grandma Shirley is rich? Was my daughter’s only real question after finishing the worksheet.
The moral of helping my daughter with her family tree? All that blather about American Exceptionalism?
Who Cares! I’m a Swedish Freegro! Heading for Stockholm. I’ve got a birthright to those Bikini briefs. And the balls to hang out of them… So sew me some Super size Swedish Bikini Skivvies Sonja! I’m coming home.