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This is a slightly revised version of my answer to Christopher's comment concerning his Welsh Dragon tattoo. Now that he's had a chance to read it and discuss it with me, I've decided to move it into the post section. We had a long and pleasant conversation on the phone last night. It's always interesting to me that his taste in movies and actors is almost identical to mine. His approach is far less intellectual, which is probably a blessing, but we remember and laugh at the same scenes, the same dialogue, even from movies we haven't seen for ten or fifteen years. I'm a character in his life, just as my father and his father are characters in mine. In fact, my father is a character in his, only a very different one. He too absorbed far more than he understood, and is trying very hard to make sense of it. Perhaps the path is meant to be long and incomplete.

You make an interesting point about God giving you your first tattoo. When we left the hospital, I checked to make sure it was really you. You didn't require an identity tag, you already had one.

I wanted to mention that since your father is half Welsh, and your mother not Welsh at all, you are one quarter Welsh, which leaves three quarters unaccounted for.

On your mother's side is the odd fact that your mother's mother is half German. Her mother, your great-maternal-maternal-grandmother, had an affair with a German soldier, which was a very unpopular thing to do. Your great-grandfather stepped forward to marry her while she was pregnant, because he very much loved her, and also because he wasn't very much bothered by such things. I had a drink with him in a Paris café shortly after my marriage to your mother. At least, I think I did. He was well into his eighties at the time. I had just come from having lunch with his wife, your great-grandmother, and was so drunk that I had to be steered in the right direction. For her, it was just another lunch. So, if you're good with fractions, your mother's mother was one half German, your mother, therefore, one quarter German and, if I have all the right people in line, that makes you approximately one eighth German.

As for the French part, your mother's mother's mother, the one we've been talking about, came from the vicinity of the Pyrenees. So, barring the occasional Spanish traveler or Basque separatist, she was as French as anyone from the Pyrenees can be said to be. Which leaves your mother's father's side.

Berdard (pronounced "bear narr") was as Gallic as they come. Of course, there might have been a tiny bit of devil mixed in. He could be very charming. He was vague about his background. I do know that he spent several years in England as part of the French resistance, running missions behind the lines under Col. Keffer, waiting for D-Day. You have a book about that. Unfortunately, it's in French. There's a scene depicting his discovery in The Longest Day. The guns that 80% of his group died to capture were already gone. He's the one breaking down the door. When your grandmother agreed to marry him, or perhaps suggested it — the French are generally too polite to do the math — he had to travel back to England to make sure everything was OK, that everyone (not someone) was in agreement. Ever the gentleman. He worked for British Airways after the war. I remember a picture of him on the mantel standing next to a very youthful and happy looking Queen Elizabeth. (He had just cracked a joke.) Behind them was what looked like a DC3 with BA markings. So, we'll count him as completely French.

About the German, however. Before you run off and figure out which flag was flying for your German tattoo, I asked Bernard one day how a WWI German soldier found his way to the Pyrenees, or how a young woman from the Pyrenees found her way to a German soldier. He said, rather man to man, "Ah, well, you know. Maybe she exaggerates."

So, it's possible, if you read between the lines a bit, that you're half French after all. Anyway, half French, a quarter Welsh, and the remainder lost in the great expansion of America. Some ended up as Tennessee farmers, some followed the wagons westward with the Mormons. Generally speaking, they were a dull lot. My mother's great-aunt Delia, which would be three greats for you, was married to a Senator for a while and lived in a hotel most of her life. I suppose she was the least dull of the bunch. My mother, whose middle name was Delia, had memories of her in a Rolls Royce, rather spectacular back then. So, the American part has at least one interesting story. But, before you run off to find a State Flag of Tennessee, I met her when she was a hundred and something, rocking on the porch in Kelso, Tennessee. She was a tiny, frail thing at that point. She apologized about not serving lunch to her guests, but she couldn't find any niggers to do the cooking. "We'll have to make do with sodee pop," she said. And so we did.

It may be that a relative remembers you some day as that crazy, colorful uncle, or great-uncle, or second-cousin, or great-great-grandfather, if you ever have children of your own, who lived by the beach and designed t-shirts. It's more important, however, to be something distinct and separate, something not merely the result of others. Marshall Macluan said that we drive into the future with our eyes in the rearview mirror. How much more interesting it might be to keep both eyes on the road.
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