(An American Tragedy)

Donald K. Muschany


[Letter 1, undated]

Dear Cousin Norman:

     Who am I? Don’t get excited, I’ll explain.
     Over the last two decades or so, it has become the “in” thing to ask that question. I’ve never understood why, but the young folks were busy trying “to relate to something or someone.” They said they were seeking “their own identity.”
     Now, I’ve never even had to look at my driver’s license to know who I am; I only look at the bills as they come in and there’s my “identity.” The IRS knows who I am, as does the FTC, the CIO, the AFL, and Channel Nine.
     If I am wrong (what a terrible thing for a father to say), then I must seek the eternal truth regarding “who my children are.”
     At any rate, for years I have been an antiquarian, without knowing it, and with no thought to worldly gain on my hobby, just curiosity. Now I find that I have a mini-Congressional library on Muschany memorabilia, wherein to search for identities or people to relate to, or for my progeny to do so. And who better than relations?
     Cousin, you and I have a last name which presents a wonderful problem. When the name is heard, it conjures up the idea of “Irish,” but when it is read, it declares loudly and proudly, “German.”
     Now, this is wonderful because the Clan Muschany is from Baden, Germany, but somewhere a leprechaun paid them a visit, leaving traces of Irish wit, along with that staunch German fortitude. This has been a happy amalgam and has led to a lively blood line. Long may its corpuscles wave.
     So far, so good with our forbears. These early Mushanies (as the name was spelled in Germany) were people I like; not rich, nor world famous, but happy, hardworking folks who really enjoyed life. In the very distant future, I hope someone writes the same epitaph for your obedient servant. These folks were successful, in my judgment, and I hope that my children and their children emulate them.
     Furthermore, I want my children to share in the marvelous semi-wilderness of my own childhood. As I recall, William Faulkner warned us that “man is snuffing out the wilderness and urbanity will consume him.” Howell and environs were victims of man’s inhumanity to man: World War II, the ultimate act of “snuffing out.” The area is still rich in my memory and I’d love to exhume this phase of my life to show the children what made the Muschany clock tick.
     Norm, if this is corny, let them burn me at the stake (medium rare).
     And still further, I have always had the idea that History should be taught backwards, in that we have a fairly good understanding of today’s happenings; but do we know what caused them to be? I hope to take the present and weave a most pleasant link to the past, and without taking too much poetic license.
     Being a funeral director I am constantly running into these kind of questions. Who is related to whom? Who likes whom? Who will ride in the family car or as the French say, “en famille”? It is certain that families will surface and seek identities at some time or other. I want to know mine better so that my heirs, et al, won’t have to ask that super-dumb question, “Who am I?”
     In reciting the family decalogue, I am going to take the Germanic approach of Father first, with my dear wife’s approval (or without). Ha, I’m feeling power drunk already! (Remember the old story: an hour after you eat a German meal, you feel hungry for power?)
     Well, cousin, this is the prelude. I must get back to my mini-library, get a new quill for my trusty pen, and cause history to erupt.

     More later from your archivist cousin,
[signed: Don K.]