Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's July 4th! Celebrate your Heritage.

To people living outside of America we think of the population of the United States as Americans. All 300 million plus of them. Their nationality is American, as in English, French, German, Italian and so on. So when I moved to America in 1996 I just couldn’t understand why people with very definite American accents would say when they met me “Oh, you’re English. I’m Italian, Irish, Russian . . . .” Politely I would smile and think to myself, “No you’re not. You’re American.”

But over the 16 years I have now lived here, I have come to understand why Americans are so eager to share their heritage. Being a much newer country than England, for example, many of the people I meet have grandparents or even parents who came to America from another country. I have a good friend whose mom is German and her father is from the Philippines. They met at an international mixer for expats in Boston in the 60s and then raised a family in Massachusetts. On the other hand, I have a friend who has traced her heritage back and can document that she is a Child of the Mayflower and a Daughter of the American Revolution. How cool! There is a friend whose grandparents on both sides were from Finland, and another friend who has mostly English heritage. One friend recently posted an old photo on Facebook of her family on the plane traveling to the US from then communist Russia in 1979. Donna’s father was American and her mother is English. There are so many stories. And people want to share these stories. This melting pot is America. 

But when my daughter was in second grade her class was doing a project on immigration and came home and asked (in her very American accent), “Mom, where are we from?” “England,” I replied. “We’re just English?” she questioned. “Yes, on both sides we are all English.” With a dejected face, “That’s it?” she said. She wanted to be "from" lots of places! I laughed and said that it was actually pretty cool to be “all English.” I am proud of my English heritage too. But it was also a great day in 2006 when my husband and I were sworn in as American citizens at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall. 
Faneuil Hall, Boston
After living here for 10 years at that point and having two American kids we were very happy to embrace the new American side of our life. We happily deposited our green cards in the basket that was passed around and applied for our American passports. 
Newly Minted US Citizens

Our friends celebrated with us. And my friend Gretchen painted this amazing painting for us that hangs proudly in our dining room. Every time I look at it I can feel proud of both sides of my own family’s heritage. I get it now! 
So wherever you are from and whatever your heritage is have a great July 4th!
Lucinda & Donna

1 comment:

  1. Ooh - I love the painting Gretchen did for you! I want one!

    I was sworn in as a US citizen at Faneuil Hall too - in 2000. My kiddos' family tree is all British too - although DH's family is American, every single line of the family that we've traced so far, with one exception, goes back to the UK. (They have one set of GGGG grandparents who came from Germany.)