Based on innumerable requests received from readers, it is time to take a brief detour in our journey and introduce one of the main protagonists: My wife of many years, the love of my life, Tina Mann, nee von Tannenberg (yes, the von Tannenbergs!). During the course of our journey I will refer to her as the SLWW (Smartest and Loveliest Wife in the World), a catchy and convenient acronym dearly beloved by her. BTW, the photo shows her the one and only time in her life thinking inside the box.
For those of you who for some reason are hazy on the von Tannenberg family, let me fill that gap in your general knowledge.
The Tannenberg family goes back hundreds of years to the old kingdom of Bukovina-Herzegovina, in what is now the Republic of Transnjestr. Old municipal records first mention Tannenbergs in 1137, apparently peasants and squirrel hunters in the local mountains. These mountains were covered with fir trees, thus Tannenberg (“Fir tree hill” in English). Then the record is silent until 1849, when the patriarch of the family, Franticek “Frantic” Tannenberg, wins the “von” title, and with it the birthright of nobility, in a lottery sponsored by King Vacislav the Lame to benefit the local humane society. Ring a bell?
Anyway, unaccustomed to societal esteem, and in spite of what seems to be a ticket to wealth, the family fails to lift itself out of poverty and is finally forced to emigrate to the New World, to seek its fortune and escape marauding Cossacks.
Why, you may ask, would the daughter of such a prominent family marry a commoner like your humble blogger? In what circumstances, you may query, would people from such different social circumstances even meet? The short answer is, what was impossible in the Old World, is possible, even commonplace, in the new. Truth be told, the von Tannenbergs remained impoverished in America, more interested in the pursuit of happiness than money. They mingled with people of all social strata right from the start, resulting in a dilution of “Frantic’s” blood line; a happy dilution, according to some.
Tina said she took an almost immediate liking to me when we met at a Halloween party at the state college we attended. I was dressed as Dracula, she as a princess. I think she was impressed by my get up and my carefully cultivated central European accent. It must have awakened something subconscious in her, something dark and long forgotten, yet romantic. I pretended to be knowledgeable about wine, looked rakish, yet thoughtful smoking my pipe and was driving a British racing green Mazda Miata. I swept her off her feet.
The rest is history, as they say.
This shall suffice as an introduction to the background of Tina and her family. We will next return to our regularly scheduled account. Tina will appear in our journey often enough; fear not, her character and intelligence will shine through on numerous occasions.
As for your blogger, illumination of his and his family’s past will have to wait. I fear that at this point my readers would not be ready for what is to come…