Posts Tagged ‘ family tree ’

Broken Branches On The Family Tree

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

2 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

Two weeks ago we visited my grandma, Lola Mendez Metallo, in the assisted living complex. She told us a story I had never been made aware of.

When her own grandmother was only 15 years old, on the way home from church, she was kidnapped by a widowed man who already had 4 children; being forced to become his wife and have children with him.

One of those children born to her was my grandma’s father.

My grandma explained that sort of thing wasn’t uncommon in Michoacán, Mexico back in those days.

It’s a dark story, and a strange part of our family tree.

I also know that your great-grandmother on Mommy’s side came to America from Ireland, as an indentured servant.

That couldn’t have been too awesome.

However, the fact that our family tree contains “broken branches” is nothing unique to our family. Climb any family tree in America, and it won’t take long to find some less than perfect situations which eventually led to modern day.

You and I also share Native American blood. I’m sure there’s an interesting story somewhere with that too. By interesting, I mean less than desirable.

It seems most old movies about the Wild West conveniently portray “the Americans” as the good guys and “the Indians” as the bad guys. (Accidental racist?)

I think about this stuff. Our family tree consists of both oppressors and victims.

While it’s easy to be removed from the reality that our ancestors had to experience because it was so long ago, if it weren’t for their hardships, we wouldn’t be here today. Their lives were just as real as ours are now.

Even just to think: Mommy was born as the 9th child of her family. How few American households in 1981 had a 9th child born?

The fact that Mommy was ever born is a rare enough situation to try to grasp.

You’re not here by accident, son. You are part of this universe for a purpose.





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Finding My Son Up in the Family Tree

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Eight months.

Coincidentally while here  in Sacramento, which is known as “The City of Trees,” I have been doing a little bit of “family tree climbing.”  We are staying at my mother-in-law’s house along with a couple more of my wife’s siblings and their families.  Many of the walls are as thoroughly decorated with family pictures as John Mayer’s arms are consumed with tattoos.

I have been closely inspecting these retro pictures for signs of my son’s looks.  The only time I really see myself in him is sometimes when he cries and laughs.  So knowing that it was my wife’s genes he mainly inherited, I decided to find out exactly where his features came from. 

This first picture features my mother-in-law’s grandparents, as well as, her father who is featured far right.  His name was Waldo Tocchini- I definitely see some “Jackness” in his nose and the shape of his head.  I often think of Jack as a 1940′s wrestler.  Seeing Jack’s great-grandfather as a five year-old boy in 1920 only solidifies that old-timey wrestler idea in my head.

I have written before about how Jack reminds me of my wife’s dad- as an adult.  Here is a picture of him when he was a little boy.  We shall see if this is a hint of what Jack will look like.  Also, check out the picture in the far left botom- that’s my mother-in-law as a baby; her nose and mouth look a whole lot like Jack’s!

Here is a more recent picture of one of my wife’s nephew.  For a nanosecond, I had to ask myself if I had somehow teleported into the future and was looking at  a picture of Jack.  Several of the family members have also noted the resemblence between Jack and this first cousin of his.

This is my favorite picture in the house- it’s my wife’s family portrait from 1983.  She’s the two year-old sitting there in her mom’s lap.  This is just simply classicly awesome.

Then I look right next that photograph and see my own family’s portrait from St. Patrick’s Day.  Though my wife and son are related by blood to the Italian-French-Croatian-Norwegian people in all these pictures, I have been grafted into the vine, adding my Italian-Mexican-Scottish-German genes into this new branch of the tree.

So what if my son ends up never really looking much like me.  Chances are, his first child will be a splitting image of me.  Because that’s evidently how things work in this family tree of ours.  I say that, but the truth is, our next kid will probably look the opposite of Jack; like me.

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The White Sheep of the Family

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Six months.

Jack may have been born as a Mexican baby, but he has gradually morphed into a little Norwegian boy.  The supreme irony is that when Jack was born, he almost looked too dark to be my son.  Six months later, it’s the opposite situation.

If you grew up in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s, then by default one of your favorite sitcoms was Full House.  And whenever you think of Uncle Jesse, you think of his awesome video for “Forever” where he is wearing a black leather vest while in a bathtub surrounded by candles.  Also featured in the music video were Jesse and Rebecca’s twin sons, Nicky and Alex.

For me, I was always distracted by the fact that a dark featured Greek guy and a normal complected woman with reddish brown hair would have sons that had blonde hair, blue eyes, and light skin.  I already had enough trouble believing that Danny Tanner would have three daughters with blondish hair when he himself had black hair (Bob Saget is Jewish in real life) with their mother who was also Greek; she was Jesse’s sister.  But light featured kids don’t come from dark featured parents, especially when there is a Mediterranean bloodline… I thought to myself for 20 years.

When Jack was born, and in the month or so to follow, he was a Mexican.  His skin was darker than mine, his hair was jet black, and his general features just simply looked Hispanic, or at least Italian. That’s because my maternal grandmother, Delores “Lola” Mendez is a dark-featured Mexican from Buffalo, New York and my Italian grandfather, Albert Metallo, was a dark featured Italian from Kenosha, Wisconsin.

In fact, when you climb both sides of the family tree (both my wife’s and mine) you continually find dark haired people with dark eyes. But there is the fact that my wife’s paternal grandfather was a Norwegian orphan adopted by an American family, who married an indentured servant from Ireland.  In other words, despite the influx of “dark genes”, Jack evidently adopted the underdog “lighter” genes.

My wife and I have a blonde haired, blue eyed son with porcelain skin.  He’s sort of the “white sheep” in the family. And now that he’s officially six months old, the age at which a baby’s eye color remains permanent (based on what I’ve read), we now know it’s official.  Granted, I realize there’s a good chance that the older Jack gets, the darker his hair will get.  He may not always be blonde, but he will always have lighter skin than his parents who have a subtle olive complexion (skin with yellow and green undertones).  And people will always ask us, “Where’d that boy of yours get those pretty, deep blue eyes?”

Knowing me, I’ll probably reference Nicky and Alex from Full House every time I answer that question.

Pictured below:

1) The Four Generations of Shell in December 2010; my grandfather Shell is sitting in the middle, holding my son Jack, in between my dad and me.

2) The Four Generations of Metallo/Mendez in January 2011; my grandmother Metallo is sitting in the middle, in between my mom and me.

3) In May 2011, Jack is holding a sign that reads, “I am 6 months old today.”

*To get a better idea of just how different Jack used to look, look on the right side of the screen and click on the archives.  Start at November 2010, the month he was born.

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The Minor Details

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

What will be his or her heritage?  How tall will he or she be as an adult?  Boy or girl?  I’m answering the tough questions today, based on educated theories.

This series isn’t a “baby blog”.  Instead, it’s a documented journey of what a first time dad thinks about, starting from when I first found out and started sharing the news with everyone.  Because this info is coming from a man, who processes things in black and white, it’s possible that the tone will be a mix of both practical and abstract.  No goo-goo gah-gah.  But maybe a little nanu-nanu.

In fraction form, here are the proportions of my coming child’s ethnicity:

1/4 Italian (my wife and I are both this)

1/8 Croatian (from my wife; Croatia is the country we know today as “Transylvania”, The Count from Sesame Street speaks with a Croatian accent)

1/8 Mexican (from me, my mom’s mom’s family moved to Buffalo from Mexico)

1/8 Norwegian (my wife’s grandfather on her dad’s side was from Norway, but was adopted by an English couple in Iowa)

1/8 German (from me, where the Shell name comes from, as well as a little bit from my wife’s Norwegian side)

1/8 Irish (my wife’s grandmother on her dad’s side came to America as an indentured servant from Ireland)

1/8 English (from me, where the pale skin and light freckles come from)

*Greek (higher up on my dad’s family tree, there were two separate Greek ancestors; family tradition tell us that a Greek ended up on the Italian side as well)

*French (in my wife’s Italian lineage, family tradition tells us that a Frenchman got thrown in the mix)

*Jewish (my Mexican grandmother swears that my late Italian grandfather was part Jewish, and based on the family’s speech patterns, uses of random Hebrew words, and quirky behavior, I’m convinced it’s true)

Virtually, on both my wife’s side and my side of the gene pool, there is no man 6 feet tall or more, nor is there a woman 5’ 8” or more.  Combined with the fact that I am 5’ 9” (the average height of the American man) and my wife is 5’ 6” (two inches taller than the average height of the American woman), here are the most likely height ranges for our child once they become full grown:

Boy: between 5’ 8” and 5’ 11”

Girl: between 5’ 3” and 5’ 7”

Hair color on both sides generally ranges from medium brown to jet black, therefore it’s most likely the child will have semi-wavy, dark brown hairThough I do have two blonde-haired, blue-eyed aunts and also a red-headed, green-eyed aunt as well.

In one of my Mexican grandma’s dreams, the baby was a girl.  But based on a Vietnamese co-worker who correctly predicted the gender of my boss’s kid based on a Chinese calendar, he told me that there is a 70% change it is a boy.  My wife’s mom gave birth to 10 kids, and only 3 were girls.

My instinct tells me it’s a girl.  We’ll know in eight weeks if I’m wrong.

All this baby guesswork makes me think of those commercials for Puppy Surprise from 1992:  “Puppy, puppy, puppy surprise…  How many puppies are there inside?  There could be three, or four, or five…”

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:



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