Sunday, July 5, 2015

Curse of the Dance

This month I'm fact checking my family legends in honor of my maternal grandmother, Mary Kos Koss' 115th birthday on July 18th.  Non loved to tell stories but since she was somewhat dramatic, I wanted to discover the truths behind the legends.  Today's family tale is rather ominous and as children, my cousins and I repeatedly were warned by older family members to guard against the curse that was placed on our family by a scorned woman.  
Long ago, one of our several times great grandmothers was young and beautiful.  Being fair of face, with sparkling blue eyes and blonde hair, she was nicknamed Blondie.  Her best feature, however, was her shapely legs that could dance the night away.  It was then the custom to wear long dresses but that didn’t stop Blondie from hiking up her dress as she danced the intricate steps of the kolo, a type of circle dance   A young man who was promised to another woman became smitten by Blondie's dancing and soon broke off the relationship with his then girlfriend.  The relationship with Blondie intensified and the couple was married.  The entire village was invited to the wedding feast.   At the feast, the ex-girlfriend  announced to the villagers that Blondie had stolen her man and because of it, the exgirlfriend was cursing Blondie and all of her descendants to unbearable suffering of their legs.  Blondie did not believe in curses so she laughed at the woman and continued to celebrate her wedding.  Not long after, however, Blondie did experience pain in her legs and eventually became crippled.  The ex-girlfriend never married and lived to a ripe old age alone on the outskirts of the town.
As a child, I assumed that this story was just used to keep us in line when all 11 of us cousins got together and went running at breakneck speed through grandma's house.  I figured it was a version of don't run with a stick in your hand that most parents tell their children.  But as one family member after another sustained leg injuries over the years, myself included, I decided to delve a little deeper.
This is not a story that can be verified as certainly no records would exist that recorded these events.  I can confirm that my family loves dancing and are quite musically inclined.  The kolo is a Croatian folk dance.  “Many young men and women used this as an excuse for courting and teasing one another”1 so there most likely is some basis to the tale of a long ago grandma hiking up her dress at a gathering and gaining the eye of a suitor.
Grandma and Great Grandma




My Mom in a Blondie pose

I can also give a long list of family members – actually everyone from my great grandparents on down to the present generation, that have been affected with serious issues with their legs and feet – including amputations, freak accidents while white water rafting,

motorcycling, snowboarding, bicycling and horseback riding, lots of broken ankles, legs and hips from falling down stairs, bunions, arthritis and ingrown toe nails. I suspect Blondie became crippled from arthritis as that seems to effect most of the female family members.
I shared this story with my doctor daughter who laughed and said we should all just get tested for Ehlers-Dandlos Syndrome.  I had never heard of it but after looking up the symptoms, I’d say we all have a genetic predisposition to one of the many types of the syndrome – symptoms include overly flexible joints which do allow us to be good dancers and nimble athletes.  Our skin is rather stretchy and fragile, too.  Although we don’t have all of the symptoms I suspect this is the basis for our leg mishaps, coupled with some recklessness because when we're young we think we’re invincible and when we're older we forget our age. 
Here's some pics of my own children - I just assumed it was normal to be this agile and flexible.  
Still likes rock climbing
Has moved on to Yoga
6 years old


Yes, my daughter's feet are backwards - when she was young she could turn them around and stand and it freaked teacher's out.  In the pic she's pliaing with her feet backwards because she was into ballet at this time. Daughter thought it was comfortable.  
So now I know we aren't a family of klutzes!  Next time I trip I'll blame my genes.  


1.  ""Croatian Dances" Wikipedia.Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 05 July 2015.
2.      "Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome." Symptoms. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 July 2015.




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