On Seeing My Last Name
March 5, 2012
the landlady asks if I’m Slavic and I say yes, at least the last name is. And she says Slavic women are the best— at what exactly, I can only guess. But I’m not really. Slavic, I mean. It was my grandfather’s name, my father’s father, and he died when I was six. He was Latvian, rural born, fought in the war, went to England first, and came to Canada for the land. Mostly, I recall that he would walk his fingers across the kitchen table to make me laugh when I was small. The landlady hands me the keys with a secretive smile and a wink as though we’re inextricably linked by some murky trail of shared history. I smile back, even as I realize how little I know of the intricacies of this past— just a vague point on a map, a few handpicked details and this, the passing down of names.