This is the Clark side of my family, from right to left: Uncle Tony, Grandpa Homer, Aunt Theresa, Uncle Mike, Aunt Jana, Cousin Wendy, Mother Wendy, Grandma Virginia Manfrin/Clark/Jones, Father Tom, Cousin Steve, Aunt Louise, Uncle Fred, Aunt Marianne, Uncle Paul and Uncle Steve.

Uncle Tony is the quiet and friendly type, somebody everybody likes.  I've had conversations with him and I find him to be very intelligent and very human.

Grandpa Homer died when I was only four years old, though I remember seeing him just before he died.  He's a legend in the family.  From what I remember he was a worker in a brewery, with a personality somewhat like Tony's.  He loved my grandma very much, and would go nuts if you ever disrespected her.  

I listen intently to the stories dad has to tell about Homer, and I believe in correcting some of these presumed mistakes--but I'm very far removed from the big family life, and I really have very little to carry on in the way of a legacy.  I'm a rebel a lot like my dad, but being far removed from the family and being a part of a more independent generation (perhaps), I can't say I've taken as many lumps as he has.  So I'm lucky to have run into less obstacles than he has and to have had the opportunity to do things that he hasn't.

 

(From right)  Homer, Theresa and Steve

 

Aunt  Theresa is an angel.  She's a very responsible mother to her children, a loyal member of the family, a good friend to my mother and sister.  She's now a surgeon's assistant, and her husband Ashley works in an architectural design firm.  She has the epitome of the hilarious  Clark "vacuum laugh" that my dad (and myself to a lesser extent) have inherited.  It's very contagious.

 

(From right)  my dad, uncle Mike and uncle Tony

 

Uncle Mike is a brawny guy who, when I was young, made a family with a farm.  If I didn't have Mike in my life, I would have never been chased by geese, have my thumb sucked by a goat, or eaten fresh eggs, milk, and other incredibly awesome food.  His determination to keep up the farm and difficulties with the rebellious little Wendy is probably what led to a widening rift with Jana, and they eventually divorced.  Now Mike keeps bees, continues to ride his Harleys, and seems to be doing well with his new wife, Rita.

 

Aunt Jana

 

Aunt Jana is a very kind and intelligent woman.  She has a charismatic voice, beautiful handwriting, and a common sense way of talking.  She's also been remarried, as it turns out.   Jana and my mom have been best friends for many years--they write handwritten letters and talk regularly on the phone.

 

Little Wendy and Aunt Jana

My cousin little Wendy has always been a handful for Mike and Jana.  I remember when we were all teenagers she ran away from home a couple times.  I don't know what she's doing these days, but I hope everything is going smoothly for her now.  

My grandma Virginia is a very outgoing, loud, hilarious woman, she's well over eighty now, and she's still the life of the party.  When she made her family in Lorain, Ohio, she eschewed much of her Italian heritage, and never taught any of the kids Italian.  From dad's accounts, she still listened to opera on the radio when making breakfast in the morning, but still the focus was on her american lifestyle (I don't even think her cooking was very Italian).  But after sixty she started to dig through old photographs and tell us stories.  I've been in email contact with her  and she's told me some things about our Italian ancestors.  

Her father is John Manfrin, a resident of Padua, Italy (very close to Venice), and her family was involved in importing wine and cheese.  Her family were a residents of Chicago, and their old house in the city is still standing...it's been preserved as a part of a historical district.  Grandma seems eager to relive some of these memories, and I do my best to help her by eliciting her stories and calling her Nonna.

My dad has been a factory worker at Ford for over thirty years, but his education is mostly in English and PE (running).  He's been an anomaly ever since he's entered the factory setting, and I see him as always trying to fit in over there, be a proletarian.  But dad's really an artist type, which is why doing the barbeque saturdays and church sundays kind of dad has been an elusive role for him.  He's reinvented his family ideas by including an exotic twist--a Chinese wife who teaches him Chinese and adds that touch of adventure to his life which he always seems to be searchng for.

My cousin Steve was the rebel of Steve and Louise's family, and what he's doing today I'm not sure.  Last time I saw him I was in high school, and went to Jana and Mike's house for Christmas Eve.  He told me some things about being in the military, and if I'm not mistaken, he was in Korea for a while.  I also remember seeing pictures of his wife.  The classic memory I have of Steve is when his mother, who loves Jesus, comes into the family room to ask him to do a chore.  Their house is always strictly managed, e.g. the kids aren't allowed to listen to the radio (because it's the devil's juke box, true that)...so Louise's take is two-sided, one is her being unusually nice to everybody, the other is her being strict with her kids.  But Steve, oh man, I think he's almost suicidal.  Louise comes into the the family room to ask Steve to clean up the dishes or something, and then out of the blue he doesn't answer her at all, and instead starts singing a tune from the evil "Breakfast Club" movie, a rat-pack film from the late 80's--"don't you...forget about me...baby!"  My eyes just pop out of my head hearing this!  And I just imagine Louise's thoughts amid her mysterious silence, "I'm not going to try to strangle him, oh no, don't do that.  I'm not going to start throwing vases.  Oh no, that would be a sin.  Just walk away from this Louise, don't lose it..."  And then she actually walks away without saying a word.  Classic little Steve of the old days.

Then there's my Aunt Louise.  Like I said she's super nice to everybody (but my grandmother's Catholicism is a teaching of the devil), and she makes great cakes and canned peaches.  She told my mother once that she's praying to God for birth control--then, not very long afterward, she finished having six kids.  I think in most pictures I've ever seen of her, she's got that prego belly going--it's almost like how some men always have a beard, when I was little, she was always having babies.  Though she's not Catholic, she's had as many kids as Catholics do.  I miss the family gatherings at her house--it's always a blast.

There's my Uncle Fred.  I don't really know much about him, except from what stories my dad tells me.  I hear he's a master carpenter, but I don't know what his formal work is.  What he says in the house goes--it's the house of the Lord, though I couldn't say for sure weather that's a religious statement or just a metaphor.

My aunt Marriane is a very outspoken woman.  She likes to say everything in a very direct manner.  She was a strict mother, and kept her marriage together.  So I think of her as very conservative and very interesting to talk to.  She cooks good meals...there was the one time I went to visit her with dad when I was in high school, and she served us pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes.  Maybe I was a vegetarian then, but it sure sounds good now...

My uncle Paul is still married to my aunt Carol and living in Arizona.  They have two cute kids, both of which seem pretty grown up now.  They have a great pool there and a particularly fecund grapefruit tree.  Paul makes spun copper bowls that are a kind of craft, and he enters them in shows and has a gallery.  He has a special affinity with my dad, and I remember him being the most supportive to my dad during his second divorce.  I thank him a lot for that and his hospitality to me and my sister.

My uncle Steve (whose camera took all these pictures) works for the military as an engineer.  Peaceniks with international friends like me find this hard to accept.  But anyway Steve is an intelligent guy, very fun to talk to, and a conneiseir of many things.  Oh yeah, and he takes damned good pictures, without which this "Clark" webpage wouldn't exist.  After he got cancer he's turned into the super-bicyclist man, always excercising, and he's still hanging in there.

There's probably a lot more that I could say about the Clarks in detail, but in all I have to say they are a very fun group.  When I was little I always feared going to my grandma Dorthy's house, because my mother's family doesn't get along as well (at least when I was a kid).  It's hard to put your finger on it, but the Clarks give you that 100% happy feeling when together.  The Clark gatherings are something I truly miss after immigrating to Nanjing.

Thanks again to Steve (the master photographer) and to Emily (the sender) for making this page possible.

 

 

 

Family