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George Frederic Watts: Hope (1885)
"My first and most prominent occupation has always been Schmaltzing."

When I look down from near the top of my family tree, I see the antecedents of what would one day result in me. Though they hardly lived in the manner to which I've grown accustomed, I imagine that their existences somehow informed mine, though I knew only the barest few of them and even those barely spoke of such things. My father's side of the operation seemed the most convoluted and diverse. The Muse managed to trace my father's mother's family clear back to Roman times in Gaul, where the patriarch was a Prefect, and his progeny became the crowned heads of Europe. My later line ultimately sprang from some later-born princess. My paternal grandfather's heritage seems much less diverse, simple Alsatian farmers, perhaps Jews coerced into Catholicism displaced by centuries of unrest, a sort of diaspora unto itself. From them, I inherited my Schmaltziness, a certain endearing cloying sentimentality I consider my primary defining characteristic. Though I know I'm genetically half my mother's Scotch/Irish heritage, I consider my Schmaltzing my emotional center, my underlying superpower.

It might be socially incorrect to consider genetics germane to anything, a form of phrenology about as defining as bumps on a head, a superstitious sort of social racism born of misbegotten understandings, and it might have been an accident that I was born with a surname that so accurately represents what I've always felt.
I'm a sucker for the sentimental, the more cloying the better, and I always was easily verklempt. I learned early to turn my head away to avoid public embarrassment. My throat quite naturally lumps when certain sensitive topics come up, like when a flag or a child passes by me. I seem to see right through and into underlying symbolism, which runs a quick sword right through my chest. Schmaltzing involves surviving tens of thousands of spontaneous little deaths featuring half-caught breaths and poorly cloaked tears. I live within a fear that I'll be found out to be the sort of mouse the bullies speak so derisively about. I've been guilty but largely uncharged all of my life.

I feel fully capable of engaging in disengaged reasoning. I can appear cold and calculating, though that's only a remarkably thin candy shell. Many can tell that I'm not quite as I present myself, myself most prominent among them. My tears seem just as genuine as the next guy's, just more numerous and seemingly much more difficult to hide. I know myself to be no wimp, though, for my native Schmaltzing produces great benefits, both to me and the wider world. Perhaps it's that I perceive more metaphorically, emotional content more disarmingly prominent. I sense that I understand on levels not immediately evident to others, and the uneasy fact that I cannot help but emotionally react to what I perceive seems to empower me. Easily moved, I might be less easily moved into physical reaction. I mostly observe, sniffling in the weeds. I do not easily disconnect my emotional response from my physical intrusions and I often find myself tangled up trying to discern meanings before I can fully engage. My initial response to damned nearly everything seems to be a fresh flood of Schmaltzing.

My writing might be the means by which I talk myself down and into actual action. It's my native reaction to almost every perturbation. I seem confused by almost everything I experience, tangled up in what this latest anything might mean. I might not so much see with my heart, but I sense almost every experience in my chest, a tightening or loosening. I wonder how my serially displaced forebears boar their exiles from homeland, friends, and family relations, though I acknowledge that I've lived in some sort of exile for most of my adult existence, far away from what felt like home. I sense that I replicate patterns laid down over innumerable iterations, that I might just be only partly a creature of my own creation, but an instantiation of lessons learned and secreted away across a thousand generations. My first and most prominent occupation has always been Schmaltzing.

I cannot bear to tell others what to do, if only because I deeply suspect that their experiences might have been so very different from mine. It might be—for how could I possibly know?—that everybody continually engages in Schmaltzing, like me, and that they're just a whole lot better at cloaking it than I am, but this seems awfully risky to presume. I'm subsequently less teacher than object lesson, perhaps a living cautionary tale. I'd really rather that no one else ever learn to engage as I do, though I deeply doubt that mine's very much a learned response. I inherited my presence, or so I should probably insist, not a curse but an unlikely gift. This inheritance in no way exempts me from assuming full responsibility for at least acknowledging to myself (if to nobody else) just how it seems to be with me. I long ago discarded the notion that I needed reforming. I subscribe to the school of acceptance, that I might just be precisely who I seem to be to me and might therefore never reasonably expect to outgrow myself. Like Popeye, I yam what I yam and dat's what I yam, Schmaltzing.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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