Wednesday, July 04, 2007

You Are From

Just as I forgot that I could not count on the schools to prep my kids for Thanksgiving last November, so was I remiss this month in setting the stage for the Fourth of July. This morning, as we ate a hurried breakfast before school (yes, we're still in school here, and no, this is certainly not a national holiday in England), I scrambled to fill them in on the basics of this very American holiday.

It turned into a slightly trickier conversation than I had anticipated. It was kind of hard to explain why independence was such a desirable thing, given that we currently call the country from which our forefathers sought their freedom "home." I couldn't very well paint the English in a negative light, now could I? We somehow lost track of the Fourth of July conversation as I bumbled through this explanation, and instead ended up having a lovely (and much safer) discussion about the merits of each country. Both England and America, my children firmly pronounced, have good ice cream, and both are therefore equally good places to live. Fair enough. It was definitely worth the entire Revolutionary War to be able to open our own ice cream shops wherever and whenever we wanted, wouldn't you say?

I was thinking later about our morning conversation and about how much my kids' identity and frame of reference has changed since we moved here. As much as I value and appreciate the opportunity they've had to obtain a more global view of the world, on days like today, it makes me a little sad to think of how little of their Americanism they sometimes seem to retain. The Fourth of July is an institution to me. It is fireworks and barbecues and decorating bicycles with red white and blue streamers. To my kids, it is now a day to go to school like any other.

There was a meme going around the Internet for a while based on a poem by George Ella Lyon called Where I'm From. It was a great writing exercise and I always meant to do it myself, but I somehow never got around to it. Instead, today I dug up the template and rather than writing my own history, I wrote one for my kids. I'm patently aware that we have already rewritten their personal history a bit with this move abroad, and that no childhood reminiscing they do as adults would be complete without mention of the time we spent in England. But just for today, I wanted to capture their American selves: a part of their childhood that currently (curiously) feels as much like ancient history as my own youth.

You Are From

You are from Trader Joe's balloons, from Kellogg's Nutrigrain Waffles and big SUVs.

You are from the big yellow house with the short, stubby driveway (warm in the winter, cool in the summer; the quiet whoosh of regulated comfort blowing constantly through inconspicuous vents.)

You are from the dandelions,

the weeping willows you called mango trees whenever friends came to play.
You're from ice cream cake for birthdays and licking your plate,

from Cortney and Andrew and Moose the cat.

You're from stubborn independence and Mommy kisses that make it all better,
From don't you dare climb into that sandbox while you're still wet from the sprinkler and well, then I guess we'll have pizza again.

You are from Judaism

Tot Shabbat and Bim Baum and a dot-painted kippah you wore proudly, if a bit off-center.

You're from from New Jersey in the good 'ole US of A,
flank steak on the grill and juicy tomatoes (neither of which you'll actually eat).

From the day I agreed to buy those hot pink Merrells that Julia just HAD to have even though I hated them with a passion
The gazillion different times that Daddy got poison ivy trying to retrieve a ball which Evan had kicked over our back fence

Our mementos may be locked in storage at the moment, but our memories are not, and opening your eyes to the world in front of you need not mean closing them to the world you left behind.
Where ever you go and whatever you become, all of this will still be where you're from.


Blogger Kristy said...

Oh, wow. Fantastic. I think you got it. But I also have an addition/correction. You say: "I'm patently aware that we have already rewritten their personal history a bit with this move abroad, and that no childhood reminiscing they do as adults would be complete without mention of the time we spent in England." Clarification: you haven't *re*written their history. You've simply written it, or, *helped* write it, as it were. There's a chapter in there on their British experience...but there are as many, if not more, chapters in there on all their other experiences as well -- fine icecream included.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

just wanted to say Happy 4th! :)

5:27 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

Beautifully written. And I agree with Kristy, you haven't rewritten, just simply helped add an extra chapter or two on their experience abroad.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

Love this...need to go find tissues now.

Happy 4th.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...


And yes, no "re-writing". Their history is what it is, and it includes parents who aren't afraid to take risks and chances and to step out of the box. Lucky kids, I say.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Dana said...

Beautiful, just beautiful. (Belated) happy 4th of July.

2:46 AM  

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