(Trigger warning ⚠️ death, murders and miscarriages are spoken about in this post)
We sat, as we often did, around the kitchen table after dinner. Our plates pushed towards the center with the remains of dinner smeared across flat floral porcelain faces. My father would prop his feet up on the spokes and legs of the table and semi recline in his seat, his fingers woven together resting on top of his stomach. He was a large man, 6’4″ with jet black hair peppered with white, golden olive skin (a mix of heritages), large almond shaped brown eyes, a large angular nose and a big wide mouth with what could only be kindly called horse teeth within. He was blunt, sometimes callous, with hard set features and a sharp tongue. He didn’t suffer fools, and children were not excused from this particular human shortcoming. When he told us stories, however, his entire countenance would change.
Tonight was such a night.
There we anxiously sat, a picture of curiosity:
My little sister a perfect replica of my father’s side of the family: tall, golden skin, thick black hair, almond brown eyes and wide straight teeth, was rocking around in her chair like most 8 year olds would. She knew a story was coming and it was going to be good.
My brother, an exact copy of my mother’s side of our family, 6’4″ like my father but blonde, fair skinned, blue eyed and thick lashed. He had small white teeth that behaved better than anyone else’s in the family. He was 17 and basically ready to go play video games, but if the story was good enough, he’d stick around.
I was a mishmash of features from the recesses of both of my parent’s family trees, I was tall 5’11”, fair skin with a yellowish cast, not enough to be exotic like my sister. I had long thick black brown hair with strange shoots of red, like my hair was trying to lighten up to blonde but was too weak to accomplish that color. I had rounded eyes with small almost exotic points and muddy green eyes. I too had a large nose like my father except it tipped up like my mother’s. Unfortunately, I inherited horse teeth like my father. I was about 12 or so and trying my best to show my sister how she SHOULD be sitting.
When we all went to school, we did not look related to one another at all, and this caused a bit of milkman talk among our peers and their parents. Tonight though, tonight we would ask the question.
“Daddy,” I asked, “Why do we look the way we do?”
“There’s been some talk, has there? They think your mother’s been hiding a milkman in the closet?” He chortled to himself.
“Yes, well why do we look the way we do?” I asked, fidgeting in the hard wooden dining chair.
“Well that would be due to your heritage. You are German and French on your mother’s side,” he said pointing to my brother, “and Sicilian, British, and Indian on my side,” he said pointing to my sister.
I felt a bit left out. I represented absolutely no one, apparently. Being a 12 year old who doesn’t really know who they are yet, hearing your brother looks like your mother and your sister looks like your father… well you start to feel like the milkman may be your father after all.
Before I could ruminate on this too long, my father turned to me and I knew that he was about to tell us one of the greatest family stories I would ever hear.
“But you daughter, you look like my father’s people, the People of the Middle Waters, the Osage. You my dear, are a reminder. A reminder so that we may not forget our heritage.
“You see, before our people were moved from Missouri along the Trail of Tears, just before the English came, our family was the ruling family. We ruled with power and strength as well as with great patience. We truly were a great family.
“However, there was another family, just as great, but sometimes more ruthless than necessary and they favored shortcuts. Anything they could do to get it done faster, the better it was for them.
“Now our family was blessed with a great many daughters. They were a source of strength and steadfastness, they could calm many a man’s temper, smoke the finest meats and kept the best vegetables in all the village. To marry one of our women was an honor.
“The other family had sons. A great many powerful, hard, sons who were great hunters. This family sought to marry their sons into our family uniting them into a great family that would rule over the entire tribe. This was quicker and easier than winning that honor.
“None of our daughters would have them to wed though. Not a one. One by one each daughter took a husband from another family’s sons, which slowly planted a seed of anger and hatred into their hearts. With each marriage that seed grew and it’s roots wrapped around the minds and hearts of every person in this family.
“During this time, a great battle with the neighboring tribes broke out. This turned into a war that lasted a very long time. Many men in our tribe died defending our lands. Both our families were not spared this fate. We both lost many sons, brothers, and fathers in this war. Our tribe came out of this war victorious, but saddened by the loss.
“The elder of the other family morned more than perhaps any other families did. He morned the loss of all of his sons. Each death had chipped at his heart until there was hardly any love left in it. The final blow to his heart and mind was when all was done, he discovered almost all of our family’s sons lived.
“This blossomed the elder’s hatred into an evil curse which he cast upon our family using a darkness we hopefully will never see again. Our daughters would be cursed to bear all men but one, in each lifetime. As the men grew up they would be consumed with an anger in their breast like none seen in the family before. This anger would tear our family apart from the inside, leaving only sorrowful widows in the end. Both the daughters and sons lucky enough to procreate would pass this curse on until a daughter married a son from his family or extended family. If we left the tribal lands we could not escape our curse, for it would follow us in a new form. Thus putting all of his grief, anger, and hatred into this curse, he died.
“Our family flourished after the war, daughter after daughter was fruitful and had many children. Many male children. If a woman had a girl, mysteriously the second or third would die within the womb or be born only to die minutes later. Such was the grief of our family.
“The men grew and as the elder had cursed grew angry, prideful, and hard towards one another. This anger would grow to the point where a blood frenzy would brake out. Only outside intervention or dumb luck would save our men from killing one another. We buried many young men before their 14th year.
“Our family being as violent as it was no longer ruled, and others took up the position as our family was pushed further outwards. One of our closer ancestors was given to a English solider as a part of a trade deal, because no one within the tribe would have her due to the cursed nature of our family. After many difficult births he left her and her only surviving child, a boy, to the tribe. They forever were marked with the last name Wilson and it was murmured that the Wilsons were a cursed family indeed.
“My great grandmother was married into our family. She had a son who managed to have a son before he too succumbed to family violence. That boy was given back to my grandmother to raise. He was left some money, upon is father’s death. Just because they were cursed did not mean that they did not do well for themselves finically. As time passed, it became apparent there was a plot against this young boy’s life. His elder cousins and uncles knew that the money was left to him and upon his death would not go to his grandmother, but one of the other men of the family. Such were the times.
“Knowing this, in the night my great grandmother took my grandfather off the reservation and began the process of citizenship into the United States. He grew up without any family strife, but lost his inheritance. When it became time to marry he did. He married a woman by the last name of Foust and had my father and his brother.
“All seemed to be well. Though the brothers seemed alright together, but distant, and thankfully there were no killings or plots. For whatever reason though, Bill never married, and he never had children.
“My father went and joined the Navy and married himself a beautiful Sicilian American bride. Then she had a son, then a daughter, and then another daughter.
“Our great grandmother was overjoyed. Finally, the family curse was gone! With two sons living in more harmony than any had in generations, and there were daughters! There were daughters were being born and healthy! This surely meant all would be well within the family! Leaving was the right choice!
“Except, it wasn’t. It became apparent while the Wilson’s did indeed have daughters they could not produce any more sons. Pregnancy after pregnancy ended in miscarriages. Your great grandmother remembered our curse and she remembered that leaving had be theorized to cause just as much sorrow as staying would have been. She had thought perhaps the sorrow would be the loss of knowing our people and not living on our lands. However this was not so, this was the proof that the elder’s hatred had not been satisfied. She shared this with my grandfather Elson before she passed. The curse had not broken but stretched and changed to fit into this new world. This is now our curse.
“I also know this curse to be true. Your brother, as you know had a twin in the womb. The twin did not survive, all they could find was his umbilical cord. There was a boy before you, my eldest daughter, who also did not make it. You have but one male cousin, and there are. no. more.Wilsons. Unless your brother were to marry, and have children this will be the end of us in name. Perhaps then the curse will be done.”
We sat in silence, digesting this tale of murder, sadness, and unnecessary death. Sadly, I looked up at my father, as he sipped his Diet Coke in thought.
“You must not bring this up with your mother,” he finally said, “it will upset her. It is best she not know, or think on this. It is true there is nothing she could have done, but all the same, do not give her new reasons to dwell on this.”
We all agreed and pushed away from the table, heavy in thought of what our ancestors went through. Dishes were washed and pots were dried. Bowls of vanilla ice cream were dished out and we took our seats again. My father spoke again.
“You may remind us to never forget our ancestors, and what they went through, but you also remind us to be glad for our future. After two children lost, having you was a wonderful gift. You are a child of the in between, of spirit. You remind us that even though there are tragedies and curses in this world, there is also hope for more.”
My brother a sister sat eating their ice cream and I thought about the family curse. Would it dissipate the further our blood mixes with other races and peoples? Would we grow up to have children of our own or would we take a different path? How much of this curse business was true or just an interesting story?
I suppose that was for me to decide.
I was told a less detailed version of this story when I was a child. There are some facts in this story I just told and a great deal of poetic license. The original tale maybe took 15 minutes and a great deal of theorizing on our parts based on the few things we knew. I just fleshed it out a bit.
So what’s real?
Well we were cursed by another family, and yes it was said that the curse was to produce only one female per generation. We were told this was indeed to cause fighting and death in our family. I am not sure if we were the bad guys or the victims in this instance.
One of my ancestors did marry an Englishman by the name of Wilson but why she returned to the tribal lands is unknown. All I do know is it was said that the curse persisted.
I was told my ancestor was taken off the the tribal lands by his grandmother because there was a plot to kill him. Why… I really don’t know, but the time period is around the right place for inheritances to play a role or land rights.
The rest is unfortunately true, there are two baby boy Wilsons that never made it into the world as we know it. We do not talk of it with our family and we do not mention the curse to anyone. I’m not even sure anyone alive besides my dad knows about it. He is the eldest and most likely to have interacted with this Great Grandmother.
Maybe my dad made this all up to appease us one night. Children can really be aggravating and he had 3. I really can’t say. (And yes, it was rumored that one of us was a child of an affair. It rotated based on the gossip’s preference.)
But I can say my brother has no children. My sister has no children yet. When I turned 15 a mysterious infection damaged my uterus. Doctors were baffled because I was not in the physical position to have that infection. It left my uterus scarred. I was told having children would be difficult. Next I would develop a brain tumor that would render me infertile except for one small time which gave me my baby boy. I have not had the ability since.
Perhaps it is just a story. Perhaps not. I suppose only time will tell.