For some people, tracing their family’s roots means a nostalgic visit to the “old country”, complete with a donkey cart ride down a rustically rutted byway to a quaint little village by the sea where boisterous young men will serenade them with incomprehensible folk songs while wrinkled old women ply them with homemade plum brandy and freshly baked pastries. For my little family, however, tracing our family’s roots is a whole lot simpler: a trip to the local Circle K will suffice. This is because, despite all of my romantic wishes to the contrary, our ancestors are white trash.
I’d like to blame my husband’s family for this: after all, the branches of his family tree are filled with enough names like “Bubba” and “Uncle Skinny” to populate an entire Jeff Foxworthy Christmas special. Not only that, but some of their actions could qualify for the punch line in one of Foxworthy’s joke: “Have you ever lost more than one finger while working at the pickle relish plant? You may be a redneck.”
Unfortunately, however, my family’s tree grows just as close to the trailer park as his does: our personal entry into the Foxworthy lineup would be something along the lines of: “Has anyone in your family ever chopped off the head of their spouse with an axe–and gotten away with it? They may be a redneck (and a scary, Deliverance-style one at that).” (In my relative’s defense, he did claim that he was only trying to chop down his wife’s door to warn her that their boat was on fire; how was he supposed to know she would choose that most inopportune of moments to put her ear to the door to try and figure out “what all of the ruckus was about”?)
With family like that, you could almost argue that when Clementine and I went tubing down the Salt River this past July we were not only engaging in mindless hedonism; we were exploring our heritage. And evidence of our “heritage” was never far from hand: despite the fact that the people we were surrounded with represented a wide range of ethnicities it soon became obvious that–no matter what their color– every single one of them clearly qualified as “white trash”. There were the ones falling off of their tubes without spilling so much as a drop of MGD; the ones jumping off of cliffs heads first into dark waters of uncertain depths; the ones performing impromptu strip teases on the tops of a 64 quart coolers; and, of course, the ones vomiting copiously down the sides of their own and others’ inner tubes. All were different, and yet all were disturbingly (and familiarly) the same. It was a little like getting a suntan and diversity training all at once: no matter what color, race, or creed someone was, when it came time to vomit, they all looked the same.
It was so much like a white trash family reunion, in fact, that at the end of the day, as we watched a man dragging his nearly comatose girlfriend (butt still planted firmly in the middle of her tube) up the rocky hill to the shuttle bus, I was inspired to turn to Clementine, spread my arms wide and say: “Look around you: these are your people.”
True, there weren’t any donkey carts; but there were plenty of jackasses. And while the boisterous young mens’ songs weren’t nearly as incomprehensible as I would have liked, and the wrinkled old women were actually middle-aged biker chicks who had unfortunately misspent their youth applying Bain du Soleil where SPF 45 would have served them better, I knew in my heart of hearts that Clementine and I would never come any closer than this to returning to the “auld sod”. Maybe next time I’ll get her a commemorative Big Gulp to celebrate.