Lindsey's recent 2nd grade project was a cultural heritage project. She brought home a cut-out figure with instructions to research her cultural heritage, create national flags for the countries she's from and dress the figure in traditional dress from those countries.
This brought me to the following question: Do I tell the truth?
See, while growing up we were told that we were of Italian heritage. My mom made spaghetti sauce from scratch; no jars at our house. My dad taught us from a young age how to swirl spaghetti on a fork and that it was considered bad manners to cut noodles to eat them. For Christmas Eve dinner we had lasagna for dinner, partly because December 24th is my dad's birthday and he always picked lasagna as his birthday meal, but also because he told us it was their family tradition growing up, being Italian and all.
When people asked my heritage and I replied "Italian," it was often met with nods and smiles. "You look it with your dark hair," people would say. Never mind the fair skin, that must be my mother's Croatian side.
Then, about 7 or 8 years ago, my sister became interested in our family heritage and a great devastating truth was discovered: we are not Italian. It turns out that many generations ago there was a "philanderer" in our ancestral past. This particular predecessor married and then abandoned two families before finally settling down with his third wife, each time changing his last name to cover his tracks. The final iteration of his name is my last name, Floria. The version before that was Florey, and the original last name was Fleury. Yes, that would be French.
Upon uncovering this truth, my dad remembered that his mother always insisted that they had been French. But no one really believed her, thinking that she said this because at the time it was not popular to be of Italian descent.
This revelation truly startled me. I mulled on it for several weeks, in disbelief that so much of my cultural upbringing had been rooted in the wrong soil.
I don't even LIKE French cuisine.
Our friends from New York, who are proud Irish-Americans, found this tale completely hilarious. Love their support, thanks guys.
Now I was left with this question: Mommy, where are we from? Do I perpetuate the lie, or do I tell the truth?
And so she and I did our research. We looked up the customs and clothing of Croatia, land of my grandfather who immigrated here as a boy. And we researched England, where my husband's ancestors on both sides hail from...we think.
And then we researched France, the land of my father's family.
Someday I will tell her the story, and she can embrace whichever heritage she so chooses. Considering her love of pasta, I have a feeling I know where her heart lies.