05 January 2013

Stories and Spoons

As children many of us are told stories about our ancestors.  The stories may only be about our parents or grandparents but we feel they are the history of our family.  Many things are also left out of stories as I found out when I was in my early thirties.
My father, Ed, had two sisters, Anna and Mary.  There were two other siblings, Genevieve and Michael, both of whom died in early childhood.  Aunt Anna was older than  my dad.  She had married William "Bill" Drozek and they had three sons.  Aunt Mary was the youngest in the family.  She had married Thaddeus "Ted" Porebski and they had one son.  Yes, we were a small family but we were close.  There were many fun visits throughout the year and Thanksgiving traditionally spent at the Drozek's home and New Years Day at the Porebski's.

 There was one Thanksgiving I will never forget.  It had been a fun day as usual and our stomachs were all filled with wonderful food.  We had just finished a game of "Spoons"* and the conversation turned to my grandmother, Maryanna.  One of my Aunts mentioned something about  Maryanna's first husband.  Well, my jaw dropped and when I looked at my cousins, who were older, and they looked equally surprised.  We seemed to ask as one,
"What do you mean first husband?"

It seems Maryanna had first married a man named Andrew Opalenik and Anna was born from this marriage.  The couple also had another child who survived to adulthood.  Her name was Helena!  She had married and had two stepsons before she died sometime in the 1920's.  No one remembered the year of her death or her married name.  There were more cousins out there!!!
Then one of my cousins asked when Andrew died and we were told it was sometime in the 1920's.  Well, my father was born in 1914 from the marriage of Maryanna to Michael Kolodzinski.  How???  Then we were told Maryanna had divorced Andrew sometime between the time Anna was born in 1909 and Ed in 1914.
Helen Opalenik (eldest daught of Maryanna Czmur and Andrew Opalenik)
When my family returned to my parents home I was still reeling.  When I commented once again on the fact that Maryanna was married twice,  my mother, Loretta (née Szostek) told me that my other grandmother, Mary (née Inda), had also been married twice!  That is a story for another day since there is more to this story.

A year or so later I started again asking my dad about his siblings.  He then told me there was another Michael plus another child but he was not sure of the name.  Both of the children died as infants or toddlers.  Over the last few years I have found records confirming these two children born to Maryanna.  They were from her marriage to Andrew.  Michael was called Mike but Baptized as Dmitron.  The other child was also a son.  Paul was 7 months old when he died.

We seem to believe divorce is something new to our lifetimes but it is not.  My grandmother, Maryanna, divorced her husband Andrew in 1913.  Thanks to the persistence of my Aunt Mary in looking for the paperwork, I have a copy of the divorce decree and the court records.

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*SPOONS is an easy game which can be played by many different age groups, children and adults at the same table.  All you need is a deck of cards and one spoon less than the number of people playing (eg 10 people playing = 9 spoons, etc).  Remove the jokers from the deck of cards.  If you have 8 people playing you use 8 sets (a set consisting of 4 common cards) ignoring the suits (eg 4 twos, 4 threes, 4 fours, etc until you have the needed amount).  Everyone sits by a table and the spoons are laid down the middle.  Shuffle the cards and deal each person 4 cards face down.  People can look at them but not let others know what they have in their hand. Each person passes one card, again face down, to their left and adds the card from their right which has been passed to them to their hand.  This continues until the first person obtains 4 of a kind.  They then take a spoon out of the center of the table (most people do it as silently as possible).  It is up to the others to notice a spoon is taken and the scramble for spoons begins.  Whoever does not have a spoon is out of the next round and one spoon is removed from the table.  This continues until there is one person left and they are the winner!
We played this game at family gatherings with both sides of my family.  There is another variation to this game called "NOSE".  You do not use spoons in this version, just the cards.  Everything else is the same but when the first person collects 4 of a kind they place their finger next to their nose and everyone else must do the same.  The last person to do such is out of the game.  This is a much tamer version and personally I do not believe to be as much fun as the original game.