Know Thy Heritage – Part 2

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March SOL Challenge #24

Yesterday’s slice has continued to stay on my mind and in my conversations.

Being raised, for the most part, by a single mother, we didn’t talk much about our cultural background.  I knew my father was Irish.  I mean, how could I not?  His name, Paul Francis, and my name, Carrie,  have Irish all over it.   There aren’t too many people I meet that don’t think “Irish” right away.  Beyond my name, I don’t know a whole lot about my Gaelic roots.  Thankfully, back in 1973 my dad was able to take a solo trip to his homeland where he stayed for six weeks.  Sadly, it was just one year before he died.  Even at 12 years old I was able to see the significance and power behind that blessing.  He sent me a postcard from every county every. single. day.  “I kissed the Blarney Stone, I really did!!”  “You wouldn’t believe how beautiful it is here!”  “The grass here is as green as your eyes!”   His words still sing to me from those tattered 4 x 6 cards.

My other half, my mom, is German.  Her name is also a regional dead give-away; Brunemeyer.  Even with the closeness we share I still don’t know a lot about my maternal grandparents and their history.  My grandfather worked at the University of Illinois in the farming/horticulture department.  My mom says her father was a professor who didn’t teach.  It’s getting harder and harder to ask her these details, and as you can see this doesn’t make a lot of sense.  There are many gaps in her memory.  Today she told me she wasn’t sure what he did because he didn’t talk about it and they didn’t ask.  If his children didn’t know details about what he did for a living you can bet they didn’t ask about the familial voyage to the new country!

My friend Kathy knows every single thing about her family’s immigration.  Her paternal grandparents are from a small town outside of Rome, Italy.  Her maternal great grandparents are from Grottammare, Italy.  Those facts (as well as the accent) roll off Kathy’s tongue without hesitation and with much more detail than I have written here.   I am envious of this knowledge.  She has this prized information locked away and stored forever because her parents and grandparents saw to it that she did.  The sense of pride she has for her heritage is remarkable.  Just as I sliced yesterday – if a  new acquaintance has an Italian name or look, they are immediately grilled, I mean enthusiastically asked, from where in the region their family originates.  A bond is immediately formed (that is, if they can answer quickly, as Vinnie did!).  An instantaneous common language is entered upon.   Non-Italians are welcome just as long as they understand how very serious and intense this topic is for them.  Know thy heritage.  Yes indeed.

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5 thoughts on “Know Thy Heritage – Part 2

  1. This beautiful slice brings back so many memories of sitting around the table at our weekly Sunday lunch with my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins. While we ate delicious homemade pasta and soup, we would listen to the stories of the family growing up on “the Hill” in the Heights and in the old country of Italy. The bond of being a fellow Italian is so strong, even among strangers. Once I was a few minutes late to the red carpet arrivals at the Chicago Film Festival. Nicolas Cage (Coppola) had already walked down the red carpet along the street and was entering the building. I yelled from the curb, “Paesan, please sign an autograph!” Amazingly, Nicholas Cage stopped, turned around, walked back down the red carpet to the curb, and signed an autograph for me. I was stunned! Now that’s Italian!

  2. I was blessed to have so many beautiful memories of our Italian heritage. I was also lucky that me parents brought to me to see where they grew up in Italy. It is a memory I will never forget. Yes, my kids are so lucky to have parents that came really tell them about their heritage. Awesome slice!

  3. My grandfather told me that the problem with us Irish folk is we forget everything. That’s why we never hold a a grudge and always lend a hand. We don’t remember any better than to be the best to everyone… I don’t know too much about my Irish roots either. I know more about my Swedish side really. I think that whatever you our down on “paper” here serves as record for those who come after you though.

    I do love the line he wrote about your eyes being as green as Ireland. How sweet is that?!!

  4. I hope Kathy will forgive me for not being Italian. I’m a total mutt. Anyway, this bond, this tie that you wrote about — this is exactly what my husband’s family has towards Ireland, or “home” as they call it. It’s also the same in that we know exactly which county everyone is from. My husband’s family is from a small town called Bekan in Co. Mayo, and some of them married men from Co. Kerry, which is kind of like a Cubs fan marrying a Sox fan around here. I’m always envious of this bond they have towards Ireland, it’s home and it matters. I don’t have that.

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