Mom: It's a lovely day here. Aunt Sally and I just got back from going through your Aunt Nancy's estate things. (Note: Aunt Nancy is actually my great-aunt, Ann Isabella Tatman, my grandfather's sister, though she and my grandmother were as close as sisters themselves.)
Mom: Yes. We found your great-grandmother's favorite chair, and a locked chest we don't know what's in it. And we also found a lovely painting of the family castle in Ireland.
Me: Neat! ...er, we have a family castle?
Mom: Yes. The Robertson clan (Scots-Irish) owned a castle in Northern Ireland. That's where the sailor from the Spanish Armada was shipwrecked, and married into the family. And that's why in his line, a daughter is supposed to be named Isabella every other generation.
Me: Oh... you hadn't told me that part of the story before.
Mom: Yes. Aunt Nancy was the Isabella for last generation. You were originally supposed to be Ann Isabella, after her.
Me: Yeah, I know you had wanted to use Isabella in my name originally.
Mom: Anyway, his descendants became Quakers; the Robertsons, Frys and Coopers were the interconnected Quaker clans in Northern Ireland. It was his descendant in the Coopers who ended up eloping with the gypsy princess, and because of stirring up all that trouble, the Coopers were kicked out of the Society of Friends.
Editor's note: One of the various family stories is about my great-great-grandfather, who fell in love with the daughter of a gypsy leader (a 'gypsy king,' as it were), and decided to elope with her. Daddy dear did not take it well, and sent some of his men to kill his son-in-law and fetch his daughter back. The young lovebirds fled to the US, and settled in the Philly area. In old pictures my grandfather looks very visibly Rom, especially without his glasses on, and so he was always interested in that part of his history even if he -- and all of his descendants -- are 'marhime' or abominations.
Me: I actually hadn't realized the Coopers were Quaker too. You need to give me all this so I can put it in the family archives instead of trying to piece together from letters and whatnot. I have a lot more from grandma's side of the family.
Mom: Yeah. They remained Quakers among themselves, but did not attend meeting again until your grandfather married your grandmother and was allowed to join Marion Meeting.
Me: That's interesting. I knew about the Isabella tradition, but didn't really know the reasons behind it. And I didn't know the Coopers were kicked out when great-great-grandfather eloped with the gypsy woman.
Mom: Yes, traditions are important.
Me: Yes. It's nice to know we have family traditions.
Mom: It is good to know where your roots are. Even if family traditions get broken sometimes.
Me (with long pause): ...er. I... could change my middle name to Isabella, for the sake of tradition?
Mom: No, 'Cooper' is an important name for the family, too, that's why you have it.
Mom: You could add it, though? Rachel Isabella Cooper Blackman.
Me: Well, that would at least mean I wouldn't have to change car registrations, bank papers or anything like that.
Mom: Oh, your aunt will be so happy! I have to go now, though. *Disconnects*
I think, however, that mom is regretting all the little ways she's diverged from family traditions, now that -- going through Aunt Nancy's stuff and grandmother's stuff -- she's being exposed so constantly to a wealth of family history and lore and tradition. I know even just hearing it made me feel a little guilty for the break in a long chain. I suppose something which (as long as it doesn't cause significant difficulties) re-establishes that a bit is worth doing.