Monday, September 13, 2010

An All-American girl...

So as we all know, I'm a mutt. I'm half Irish, a third German, a tad Danish, and the rest a mad mix o' ethnicity by way of England. Lots of Americans *are* mutts. That's part of the whole "melting pot" mentality. But, at least here in New York, we also have a lot of, for lack of a better term, "purebred" ethnicities, recent immigrants who have just come to this country. My best friend is a first generation American of Dominican descent. My boyfriend is a first generation American of Honduran descent (though, he's also more of a mutt than most Latinos, but that's a story for another day). For those who aren't first generation Americans here in the tri-state area, many of European descent are second generation Americans - I'm thinking specifically of Italian-Americans, like my good friend Suzy C. The point I'm trying to make is that I tell people I'm Irish-German-Danish-English, and maybe that explains where I get my hair, eye, or skin color, but for me, when it comes down to it, I'm All-American, and that actually makes me sad. My best friend and boyfriend speak Spanish and eat foods from their parents' homelands and dance dances from their cultures.  My good friend Suzy C. is thoroughly steeped in her Italian heritage. She goes back to Italy regularly to visit her second and third cousins who live there. My visible ties to my heritage are weak at best, which might explain why researching my family tree and learning about my heritage are so important to me. My most recent immigrant ancestor, generation-wise, is Timothy Ambrose Cronin, my maternal grandmother's father, from Cork, Ireland. I'm not sure he passed along anything of his heritage to his family (men, right?), except for the legend that he once saw a leprechaun. My most recent immigrant ancestor, year-wise, is my great-great grandmother on my dad's side of the family, Augusta Lindemann Stutzmann, who was born in Germany. Both were here by the turn of the 20th century, enough time for Old World traditions to pretty much fall by the wayside. I feel like, culture-wise, my German heritage has been passed along to me the most successfully, mostly in terms of food, mostly through my father through his mother. But I almost feel weird telling people I consider myself part Danish and part English, too, because Peter Hansen Berg came here before 1845 and Edward Raynor was here by 1634. English colonial ancestry? Celebrating the 350th anniversary of the village your ancestor founded? You don't get more American than that.

I love that I can trace my tree that far back *because* my family has been here for that long, but sometimes I do feel like I'm missing visible, tangible ties to my past because I don't know any German recipes and I can't sing any Irish folk tunes. But I think, on the other hand, that's why I encourage that kind of cultural passing-on of the baton in my friends. My mother once mentioned to me, in passing, that she was sorry she never made me and my siblings do Irish step dancing. I like that Dania and Sam can speak Spanish, and I hope they teach it to their kids. I like that Suzy and her family cook the same Italian food their parents and grandparents made, and I know Suzy will do it with her kids, too. Especially for cultures where vital records might not be as readily available as they are in the United States (where I've lucked out), like in the Dominican Republic or Honduras or even Italy, being able to pass on something to the next generation that shows where you come from (where they've lucked out) is just as valuable, I think...

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