Sunday, April 10, 2011

Da Dove Veniamo? (Where Are We From?)

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.

Lindsey's Culture Project, Apr 2011

Lindsey's Culture Project, Apr 2011

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.


  1. Love it!
    Another story...did I tell you this....Jim's Gram who died last year was a good German girl who married a very proud Irish man and then her German culture was never really talked about in the family. Only the Irish roots and traditions were passed on. When I came into the family, me and Gram bonded, me being another good german girl, and the German side was finally talked about....but never embraced.
    At her funeral Jim gave the eulogy and said "Auf Wiedersehen" at the end.....means good bye.
    At the breakfast afterwords, his cousins husband, a VERY proud Italian, was very suprised to learn that his kids were German as well, not the Italian-Irish he thought they were! His cousin had actually forgot they were German...those Irish are perhaps more stubborn than us Germas.

  2. Actually, while the Floria side of the family is French, my mother's side, Dean is Irish. I am very proud of my Irish heritage and in fact the dark hair, blue eyes and fair skin are part of the Celtic make up. So I guess at the grand children's level they are French, Irish, English, and Croat who happen to like pasta.

  3. I had forgotten about the Irish in us -- we truly are a Heinz 57.

    I remember when mom told us that her dad came from Croatia we didn't understand that because it was a region of Yugoslavia. Now it is it's own country again. I think that's pretty cool.

  4. BTW, it was Fleury in France, Florey in Ohio and changed to Floria in MI. We are descended from the 2nd marriage in MI. :)

  5. Thanks for the clarification. I figured you could set the facts straight if I didn't quite have them right! :-)

    And just so I'm clear, he changed his name 3 times and even after the last time he married a couple of times MORE? What was WRONG with this man?!