I just read an excellent blog post from a wonderful writer. Joy spoke of the neighbor- hood she grew up in.
In her neighborhood everything was the same, but the people were different. In the neighborhood I grew up in, the houses were different, but the people were the same. We all had absolutely no ethnic heritage. The places our ancestors came from wasn’t even worth a mention. Everyone just identified as Americans, not German-Americans, Irish-American, Italian-Americans, just Americans. The thought that we were anything else would have been disloyal in some way.
My own adoptive Mother and every other Mother I knew cooked the same food, mainly meat and potatoes. Spaghetti sauce made from ketchup and ground beef was considered exotic fare and was only to be served infrequently, and God forbid that garlic be added, nice people simply did not use garlic. The saving grace of the dish was that it was served on limp overcooked American Beauty spaghetti, that made it alright, once in a while.
We had no “old country” traditions, we celebrated every holiday just like everyone else did. It was all Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Jack-o-lanterns, with no mention of where these traditions might have came from. When in the fouth grade a new teacher made the mistake of telling us about her Jewish traditions, she was fired. We couldn’t have nice red blooded non-ethnic children singing the Dreidel Song. It just wasn’t done.
In addition to there being a complete lack of Jewish people, there were no Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, or Presbyterians, only Methodists, Baptists, and those that attended the Chuch Of Christ. Other religions than the three, or professing a lack of faith was completely unheard of. I’m not sure that I knew Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans or Unitarians even existed until I read about them in my Childcraft Encyclopedia.
The biggest celebration was the county fair. One year there was a black man who ran the Tilt-a-Whirl at the carnival, more people came to look at him than watch the demolition derby.
I think I believed that the cowboys had killed all the Native Americans, other than that last one crying in the commercial on TV.
I had no way of knowing what a strange world that I was being raised in. I had no reference point. I thought everywhere was like my town.
I’m glad that it isn’t.