In junior high school, I was reunited with a friend from my first elementary school—Susan G.—who titillated her pubescent male classmates with off-color maxims such as: “Once a day; every day” and “Vice is nice, but incest is best.” She clearly made an impression here, since after all these years I recall how she looked and what she said.
At the time, I was too naive to understand why she was in such a hurry to get married—back then, you didn’t admit publicly to “doing it” once, let alone every day, unless you were wed. And, incest? Well, I got that—sort of—but didn’t realize until much later the extent to which my family had pursued that particular taboo.
My ancestral licentiousness and Susan’s wit came to mind again recently as I prepared a family history—inspired by a request from my nephew to learn more about our roots. What began as a simple letter in response to his request mushroomed to over 70 pages of recollections, photos, and copies of family documents.
The effort depicts a family tree that resembles a root ball seeded by to two Italian migrants to British Columbia, Canada: Da Due Frattelli, or The Two Brothers, as I reference them. The descendants of brothers Pasquale and Ippolito loved each other so much, they had a tough time breaking away. My maternal relations spawn from Ippolito; my paternal ones issue from Pasquale. My maternal grandparents were first cousins, as were my paternal ones; my grandmothers were cousins; my parents were second cousins.
As a young man, I fretted about the limited gene pool I had inherited and vowed to never marry a woman of Italian heritage. Thankfully, I stuck to that pledge. Then, as I completed my little genealogical opus, I got to thinking. Had it not been for incest, I wouldn’t be here. Maybe I’ve been a little rash in my opinion of my family’s behavior. Maybe, just maybe, Susan was right after all.