Busted Halo
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May 18th, 2002

Cultural Chameleon

 
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I still have the family tree that I made for a sixth-grade social studies class. The last time that I saw it was when my family moved to a new house 2 years ago. I was helping my parents with the daunting task of packing up all of the endless knick-knacks that had accumulated over 12 years. Behind a shelf in my old room, I found the treasured project on which I had worked so hard. My poor family tree was all tattered and a bit faded, but it still made me smile. I recall bursting with pride when I had finished that poster.

Actually, my tree wasn’t really a “tree” at all. I wanted to be different, so I had made my family’s history fit inside the image of a large hot air balloon. The title of the tree was ” Love Makes the World Go ‘Round.” With the help of my relatives, I had traced the history of four generations of Weber’s, Ingram’s (my mother’s side), Carroll’s and Whiteman’s (my father’s side). Next to each person’s name, I included a drawing of the flag of their country of origin. I wore my crayons down to the wrappers with that project and by the time I was done, my hand was cramped and waxy from hours of coloring. I was so excited and I couldn’t wait until the day that I was to share it with the other kids in class.

What’s both funny and wonderful about that assignment is that I didn’t feel weird about it. Why should I have felt strange? Well, sometimes homework like that could present a problem for a kid like me. How was an 11-year-old going to easily explain why her family tree is covered with the Italian, British, Irish, Scottish, French and German flags when, at the very bottom, a lone Colombian flag sits next to her name? Then again, I don’t think that I was your average kid.

I am lucky enough to have been brought into a very diverse family through the incredible miracle of adoption. As a result of my own personal passion for my family’s history and the love and support of my family, I have come to know my cultural identity as a multicultural blessing. I practically define

multicultural! It is with much pride that I have embraced my status as a cultural chameleon. I love being unpredictable. In my own little way, I even like to keep people guessing. But, more than anything, I love that I can relate to many different people. Whether I’m drinking a pint in an Irish pub on St. Patty’s Day or singing along with the crowds on Colombian Independence Day, I find a little bit of myself in both of these settings. And, most of all, I am warmed by the spirit of all those that I can truly call mi gente, my people.

 
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The Author : Lizz Carroll
Lizz Carroll writes from New York City.
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