As we approach a day of flag-waving, fireworks and celebrations I find myself reflecting on the work and the satisfaction I feel in raising my children as Americans, and the blessing we enjoy by being fortunate enough to live in the United States of America.
I am an immigrant. I came from the Philippines to this country when I fell in love and married my husband over 20 years ago. I have been a naturalized citizen for about 18 years now. My husband although born in America, does not have deep American genealogical roots either. In fact, he is a first generation American. His parents emigrated from Britain to America over 40 years ago and he was born within a year of their arrival. He has always been proud to be an American and proud to say that he is the first American in his family, and unlike his older brothers and sister, (and Arnold Schwarzenegger!) he is eligible to be president of the United States. Not that he ever wanted to be, of course.
When we first got married and had children, we sat down and talked about a lot of things: money and household management, discipline, careers, goals, etc. but I don’t remember talking about what culture and traditions we want our children to be raised in. Perhaps because we’re not really the intellectual and political type; we don’t embrace causes and make symbolic statements. We are more the type of people who simply live what we believe in. We did not start out saying we were going to dedicate our life advancing lofty ideals and cultural traditions. We just wanted to have a happy life together and raise happy, well-adjusted kids. And because we live in America it went without saying that our kids will be raised as Americans, and the act of raising Americans turned me into one. This is not to say we did not expose them to British and Filipino cultures. On the contrary, British and Filipino traditions were part of their upbringing. Not in a contrived way, but as a natural result of being surrounded by an extended family of foreign-born and first-generation Americans. Hence my children are a subtle blend of cultures, expressed in the context of American values and ideals that our entire family on both sides love and whole-heartedly embrace. Is that not genuinely American: an ever-fluid culture that takes the good parts from other sources, and makes them a part of the ever-evolving American mosaic?
I used to smile when “cultural diversity” was the flavor-of-the-month at employee HR seminars across corporate America years ago. I just thought how ironic that even though we are an apolitical family, cultural diversity was a reality in our home before it became the buzz in our fast becoming politically correct society. My children grew up exposed to different foods, different values, different traditions, and different sounds. There’s Grandma Marsden and her brothers and their distinctive Belfast accent and their Ulster Fry. Then there’s Grandpa Marsden who grew up in Yorkshire, England and speaks like a Yorkshireman with an “American accent” and who loves fish and chips (the reason why my kids eat French fries drenched in malt vinegar!) Then, of course, there’s me, my Mom and siblings with our Filipino accent and our lumpia and adobo’. Interestingly, I recently learned from my kids that they are so used to accents they can hardly hear any. They know I use English words in a funny non-American way sometimes, but they claim they hardly knew I had an accent until their friends pointed it out. So it occurred to me that another uncontrived but wonderful aftermath of my children’s upbringing is they belong to a new generation of Americans who do not measure “Americanism” by how one looks and how one sounds, or even what one eats.