“Welsh? Who wants to be Welsh?” my 12-year-old son wailed. “I’d rather be a barbarian… or a Viking!”
I’m in the van, with the family on the way back home from the Major Book Tour yesterday when some sort of genealogical controversy broke out in the backseat between the children concerning whether or not they really are Italian—a deep seated illusion of which I am thoroughly responsible.
We eat pasta. We have family stories peopled with characters with names like “Uncle Icy". We recognize Italian phrases uttered by the Sopranos. We even took our daughter on a pilgrimage to the Mother Land when she was 4.
Trouble is, my husband never tasted gnocchi until he met me, and, if you must know, I’m a hybrid myself.
The Italian myth is a great testament to the powers of oral tradition. My full-blooded Italian grandfather filled me up with tales of old country emigration and hints of new world Mafioso in between healthy servings of pasta fagoli and antipasto.
Besides a certain currant-filled fried cookie that makes an annual appearance around the Holidays, nothing from Wales appears in my family lore, dispite the fact that I knew my granmother to be at least partially Welsch.
After a quick question to husband revealed that Welsh blood abounds in his family, too, my son dialed my grandmother from his cell phone.
“She’s half German and half Welsh,” he reported unsteadily.
“Welsh are just as good as the rest of the people, Brother,” my daughter explained in a no-nonsense tone.
The children decided to call my mother for more information. More German roots were unearthed.
“Brother, you have to call Grammie,” my daughter said, realizing the need for data from my mother-in-law to get a full picture. “We might be German.”
“I’ve already told half the world I’m Italian!” my son lamented. “Now I’m going to have to post a pie chart on the Internet!”
“We have to dig for the truth,” my daughter said, calculations flying across a sheet of paper. “So far, we’re an 1/8 Italian and 3/16 Welsh,” she reported, “and we might be a whole lot of German—MAKE THE CALL!”
Today finds the children still missing gaps in their heritage. Calls to Grammie were not immediately returned.
This morning, my son—the native Virginian who’s spent his entire life with Colonial Williamsburg in his front yard and Jamestown out back—proudly strode into the front yard to admire the flag we hung in honor of Memorial Day.
“We’re the most patriotic people on the street, Mom,” he said. “And we’re not even American.”