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Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Letter From America

This blog post is inspired by The Proclaimers the best thing to come out of Scotland since plaid and their song Letter From America.  Now that all my citation is finished, maybe I can get on to something approximating writing.  If you get that reference... Get outta my head!

In the above referenced song, The Scots Wonder Twins sing about the Scots tradition of leaving home and hearth during hard economic times.  It's why you have more Celts all over the earth than any other race of white man.  That's Celt with a K, not the pansy way Bostonians say it.  If you have a problem with what I've just said, come tell me. I swear I'm just as reasonable about this as I am about the supremacy of Chelsea in all of UK football.

Anyway, I digress...

It's true, the Scots have a fine and glorious tradition of moving on when times are tough for new challenges that don't involve the English choking the life out of you while they steal you blind. For future reference just ask to see my contributions to the SNP for the past 20 years.  Yep, some of my family left Europe as far back as 1840. That was my German side. I have no idea when the Scots/Irish came over or where they landed, but it couldn't have been too long after the Krauts because they were pioneers and founded towns and cities in Montana, Idaho and Oregon.  Most of that side of my family still live up there in God's Country (I am excluding Oregon from this because of a childhood camp fire accident.  Sorry, Oregon, you had your chance and you blew it).  I imagine they were too busy just trying to stay alive to write back home much... plus mail service really sucked in the pioneer days.  Get stuck, snowed in on some mountain pass and the mail carrier was probably the first to be eaten.

With that being said, I get to see the immigrant experience in my married family.  My husband is a first generation American.  His parents came over in the mid-60's, got jobs, got married, became citizens and settled in to being the typical American family.  Honestly, they could not be any more Leave It to Beaver.  They make Donna Reed look bitchy.  I have my theories about how TV influenced them.  But my in-laws are the absolute best!  They understand the importance of assimilation and how it leads to success.  Being Dutch, it's not like that have the resources of the Mexicants, but they could be even stronger if they really wanted it.  Trust me, there is nothing more awesome that a Dutchman in the throes of a stubborn fit.

We are extremely close with the family that stayed in Holland. We Skype, we email, we post funny pictures on Facebook.  Hey, we even visit!  But with that said, the Dutch have more in common with traversing the world in search of success like Scots than they know. They just had nothing like The Clearances to illustrate how sometimes you have to vote with your feet.  Texas has two huge communities of Scots and Dutch.  The Scots and the Dutch settled a huge part of southern and central Texas.  We have a huge Highland Games up in Arlington every year where hundreds of thousands come to celebrate their heritage.  In Holland and Nederland Texas they have celebrations several times a year for Tulips and Sinterklaas.

Yes, my family have a long and glorious tradition here in America.  Of being Americans first. My generation changed that.  We're Texans first and Americans second.  We have that right as Texans.

However, with the exception of my husband's side of the family, my family has completely lost contact with any of the relatives we had in Germany or the British Isles.  I can understand Germany, but the British Isles folks?  Even if it were down to a letter a year during the really hard "staking a claim" years, we should have at least stayed in touch on some level.  I come from Dalys, Howries, MacDonalds and Phipps.  I know there are probably tons of them back in the old country?  Which am I genetically tied to?  I have no idea and probably never will.  It's sad when I sit and think about it.  How might they benefit from knowing me?  (Well, that's a question that runs like a TSR in my brain anyway as I honestly believe that anyone who comes into contact with me or my skreed benefits from my genius.)  But more importantly, none of the traditions of the Old Country were passed down on either side of my family, unless you count the ability to eat my weight in sauerkraut and an unfortunately slobbering love affair with sausage.  The only traditions we celebrate are the ones I picked up in reading and that Hogmanay and Robbie Burns day and of course, we never really lost touch with Oktoberfest at all in my family.

In America our origins are always somewhere else, sometime in the back.  However, as I've pointed out many times, my family came over a very long time ago, so we're Americans.  I've some lace from some Irish ancestor, but that is really all I have to hand down to my kids who are only interested in their paternal grandmother's origins.  It's most likely that her family came over from Cuba in the 30's or 40's and told the sponge community in Tarpon Springs that they were Greek to avoid the stigma that Cubans have always had in Florida.  Oh wow!  Somehow that trumps my great-grandmother not divorcing my great-grandfather before she married another man.  Kids have no appreciation for true scandals anymore.

The song that started this whole train derailment of thought speaks to the emptying entire communities in Scotland when people were forced to leave their homeland to find a new future.  I think what The Scots Wonder Twins forget is that they found their futures and destinies here in ways they could never have dreamed of in Scotland or Ireland.  We may have started out being ruled by a monarchy, but we kicked their asses out when we'd have enough of them.  Sadly, that's a lesson the folks who are still Irish and Scots have never learned.  Honestly, we know more about the Jacobean revolt here in America then they do there.

Here in America, all of us are curious about our ancestors, where they came from, what traditions they held.  Like my in-laws, they were eager to embrace the American way of life and shuck off the memories of what they left behind.  Neither my husband nor his sister speak Dutch.  They are like me, they can understand it, but crossing that great gulf between hearing and speaking is too much.  Plus, the cousins in Holland are very quick to correct any errors I make.  Damn grammar nazis are everywhere!

I will try to get my maternal family tree that my grandmother did before her death.  That is if either of the harpies she birthed bothered to save anything that wouldn't bring a red cent on eBay bothered to keep it.  I have the shipping records of my father's family arriving in Philadelphia in 1840. It won't being me any closer to any family I may have left in Germany or the UK.  It won't make me understand me any more than I already do.  But I can tell anyone left this:

Dear Family,

This is your letter from America.  Evidently alot of us came over, did a lot of stuff, mainly moved west and were, for the most part, successful.  We were born, we grew up, married, had kids, lived life and eventually died.  Our kids pretty much did the same.  We fought wars, either with you or against you.  Maybe more than once.  But we're all okay.  I hope the same for you.


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