Thursday, April 3, 2014

Clans, Lineages, and Aunt Esther

Eldest Daughter, one of the Younger Generation, holding
The Market Demographic, one of the Youngest Generation

The last two days have been busy ones for my extended family; we lost my beloved Aunt Esther on Monday, and we had the services for her yesterday. Lots of my relatives showed up, and it was both sad to be seeing them on such an occasion and fun to see them all once again. I managed to solve an age-old mystery; just who was Aunt Bernice, and just how was I related to her?

"What?" I can hear you all say. "What does this have to do with Tekumel?"

"Everything, and nothing," to quote Saladin. ("Kingdom of Heaven"; worth watching.)

Many families can instantly tell you who is related to who, and how, in a matter of seconds. Mine can't; we have to sit down for a few minutes and think about it - such are the many branches and ramifications of our family tree. We really should have a white board and dry-erase markers handy any time we get together, so we can figure it all out.

We are, really, not so much a 'family' - in the classical Western sense, as a 'tribe' or 'clan' - in a very non-Western and really very Tsolyani sense. When I was growing up in this cosmos of relatives, Aunt Esther and her siblings didn't worry about how I was related to then; it was enough that they knew that I was, and they treated me like I was one of their own kids.

We were/ are all of various 'lineages'; my cousin Howard, better known as the famous juggler 'Ivan Karamazov', of the equally famous 'Flying Karamazov Brothers', is my 'cousin' because he's the son of my Uncle Than, who was my stepfather's brother. Did the details of the precise lineage matter to anyone? No. As Howard was of my generation, we addressed each other as Cousin, and left it at that. Within our clan, we had different 'levels' of relation:

The Oldest Generation - an exclusive club; reserved for grandparents of all sorts.

The Older Generation - anyone older then the person doing the thinking. Includes Aunts, Uncles, Fathers, Mothers, and the like without distinguishing 'actual' relationships - my 'stepfather', for example, was always my father. Period.

The Current Generation - anyone the same age group as one is. Packed full of 'cousins', and never mind all that 'second cousin once removed' nonsense.

The Younger Generation - anyone in the age group that is just younger then one is; all of my adopted daughters fall into this group, and are my nieces' and nephews' cousins without any folderol about it. 'The Kids', if you will.

The Youngest Generation - the children of The Younger Generation, no matter what the actual details of their lineage might be. Usually referred to as 'The Grandchildren', by the first three groups above no matter where they might be perched on the family tree, they are all cosseted and pampered as equals - the family believes that children are a blessing, and must be regarded as such.

I think I instinctively understood Phil's system of lineages and clans because I grew up in a direct analogue to that system. I also think that understanding is also a big part of my understanding Tekumel as a whole; I suspect that a lot of volume six of my book, which is a lot about family, is being driven by this understanding.

So, while it was a sad occasion, as we all said our goodbyes, we knew that our family would go on - we old folks were surrounded by the Younger and Youngest Generations, and we old folks told our stories and our jokes for and to their amusement. Tradition continues...