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.