Thursday, May 19, 2016

steve cotton has a secret -- a deep, dark secret

To look at that photograph, you would never think that it holds a deep dark secret.

You have probably already guessed that little fellow in the center is me. As I age, I start looking a lot more like my one year old self.

To all appearances, we look like the perfect American family. (In case any of you are wondering, this was shot before my brother joined our little brood.) We could all be sporting American flag tattoos.

For years, I have told people, I am an 11th generation American. It turns out my line is not that pure. At least, on my mother's side. I am Canadian. More than that, I am Québécois.

A bit of candor is due here. I have known about my checkered past for years. I have just kept it tucked under my hat. Or my toque, as my roots would have it, eh?

The family of my mother's mother were border crossers. Double crossers, as it turns out.

Even though one line of her family arrived on the Mayflower, after almost a century and a half (around 1790) or so, her great great great grandfather (Moses Rolfe) gathered up the chosen people in his family and wandered from the promised land of Vermont to the wilderness of Québec.

I have no idea why they went. I like to speculate they may have been on the wrong side of the unpleasantness that broke out in the 1770s. Or maybe it was Captain Renault's formula: "Did you abscond with the church funds? Did you run off with a senator's wife? I like to think you killed a man. It's the romantic in me."

And then, the family turned around and sneaked back across the border heading south. This time, ending up in Minnesota. That was three generations later. Somewhere between 1882 and 1888, it seems. And then they were off to Oregon in the 1920s.

All of that may explain my peripatetic tendencies. And my inclination to go light on illegal aliens.

So there you have it. Had my great grandfather Curtis Craig Rolfe not pulled up stakes from
Québec, I might now be a French separatist sucking up my socialized health care and shelling over half of my income to Ottawa -- from whom I would want a divorce. Life has its ups and downs.

It turns out that is only half of the story. I have a Canadian strain on my mother's father's side of the family, as well. The Munros. But that is a connection with Prince Edward Island -- a story that awaits telling at another time. Plus there is something exotic about being called
My dad, there to the right of me, is about as American as a guy can get. Mayflower ancestors. No known sneaks across the border. But there is that ancestor in Massachusetts Bay Colony who set records by being the first man to be hanged for murder. And there is some very suspicious name-changing in the 1790s that makes one wonder what was happening to the Cottons (if that is their real name) in the border regions of Virginia and North Carolina.

But I cannot reveal what I do not know. Well, I could make it up. After all, I am a writer.

Considering the number of times I have given a wink at the local Canadian population, I now hand over the full revelation for them to do as they choose.

Maybe I should join a 12-step program. "Good afternoon. My name is Steve. I am a Canadian. I'm sorry. I should say that better."

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