Norwegian/Mexican/French….

I’ve always had a fascination with my ancestors.

As a kid, I would spend hours in my grandfather’s musty attic, trying on my grandmother’s hats from the 1940’s, pouring over pictures of my great-grandparents, and reading love letters exchanged during the war.

I would stare at my stern-faced ancestors and wonder what brought them all the way from Norway (or in my father’s family’s case, Luxembourg) to a farm in the Northern part of the United States.

Almost every person in my hometown had similar stories and backgrounds. Being a child of farmers from Norwegian descent was commonplace.
It wasn’t until moving to California that I realized there was anything special about my cultural background.

It wasn’t until moving to California that I realized there was anything special about my cultural background.

After moving to Los Angeles – a city that pulses with almost every culture in the world – being a farm girl with a Norwegian heritage became unique. It was more interesting than I had ever considered it. I began to be proud of my heritage – hold on to it with a fierceness I had never considered as a child.

I dreamt about starting a family with a Norwegian man, comparing family histories, and celebrating the holidays with krumkake and rommegrot.

Then, two years ago, I met a Mexican/Italian/French man and everything changed.

He didn’t know what lefse was and I didn’t know that some people liked salsa with their eggs. Somehow we still managed to fall in love.

In this new relationship there were whole new cultures to explore – heritage that I never considered would be a part of my story. I was fascinated that Jason’s father’s first language had been Spanish and his mother had been raised above a French Laundry in the heart of San Francisco. He loved that covered wagons and sod houses were a part of my family history.

A few weeks ago, Jason and I traveled to San Francisco to meet his Italian/French side. Jason tried to prepare me on the plane, explaining that Italians are a passionate, boisterous people who have no trouble expressing how they feel. I didn’t blame him for being concerned.

My family doesn’t really do ‘boisterous.’ We don’t get too loud and we aren’t too chatty. We love each other with a complete whole-heartedness but we don’t need to say it all the time because we told each other about ten years ago and that’s just fine, thank you very much.

So as we pulled up to Jason’s uncle’s house I felt a tingle of anticipation.
The door flew open and immediately we were met with warm hugs and double cheek kisses, excited questions and offers of wine.

That night at dinner the conversation never stopped as we dined on pasta and bread. They argued in front of me – “Where did you put those bottles of wine? I set them right here and now they’re gone! Lou, WHERE ARE THOSE BOTTLES OF WINE?!” – and they expressed their love in front of me – “I’ve been the luckiest woman in the world since the day I married you.”

And that was all before dessert.

The boisterousness was intoxicating and while I might have been the quietest one at the table, I felt warm and welcomed.

That night, I wandered the halls of their home, staring at their old family photos that looked nothing like mine. Women with dark hair and men with olive skin, people who made their way in a vibrant city in which my ancestors had never set foot. They looked polished, sophisticated, the kind of people I read about in books as a kid. I stared at their faces and thought about my own future children.

If Jason and I are lucky enough to someday have children, maybe they will wonder how they came to be Norwegian/Mexican/French/Luxembourgian/Italian/Germans.

If Jason and I are lucky enough to someday have children, maybe they will wonder how they came to be Norwegian/Mexican/French/
Luxembourgian/Italians.

I will pull out old photos of Norwegian farmers and set them beside photos of Mexicans in Arizona and Italians in San Francisco. And I will tell them that they came from that – something mixed, and beautiful, and special.

And afterward we’ll sit down for some lefse with a side of salsa.

This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum.  You can find them (and me) here.

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