Patchwork

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  “For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.  We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.  We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace. ”    Barack Obama

I loved that quote from his speech.  A ‘Patchwork Heritage.’  I never thought about it that way but I guess we are.  I was born and raised in the same small community in south east Michigan.  I went to school, took driver’s training and worked at a local K-Mart.  My parents – in the interest of having us ‘see the world’ – took us on trips throughout Michigan, to California and Florida.  I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge, the Grand Canyon, bears at Yellowstone Park, the race track in Daytona, Disneyland AND Disney World as well as collected sea shells from both coasts of Florida.  I lived on campus while attending a small liberal arts college about 40 minutes away from that home for two years and then spent two years in the wide open spaces of Edmond, Oklahoma.  I returned home and lived with my parents until I got married.

My husband, on the other hand, was the son of a career Marine.  He was born in South Carolina and lived in Minnesota and California before coming home to roost in a bustling small town not far from where I grew up.  His  childhood ‘vacation’ experiences basically entailed moving a large family from one military base to another.  He would also spend time at a lake cottage belonging to his grandparents as a teenager.  He got a job, married young, had two daughters and was divorced….’til he met me.

My son was born in Seoul, Korea and spent the first month of his life in a hospital and the next three months with a Korean foster family.  He had a passport and international travel under his belt before I did.  He made the journey from Seoul to Tokyo and Tokyo to Detroit when he was four months old.  He traveled with a baby girl on her way to New York and a professor from the University of Seoul who was a regular ‘escort’ for his Korean adoption agency.  We were told that he wouldn’t take a bottle during the trip but was fed yogurt.  He was dressed in four layers of clothing when he arrived in late June….and a huge smile that made his eyes totally disappear.

My daughter was born in Tuva, a region of Russia that juts into the country of Mongolia.  We are not exactly sure of when or where but we know that someone was looking out for her relative safety.  She entered a Russian baby home at the approximate age of twenty one months.  She was moved to a children’s home in the same town (Kyzyl) when she was four.  She had just turned five when she took her first plane trip from Abakan to Moscow.  We shopped, ate McDonald’s french fries, obtained her visa and flew from Moscow to home .

The four of us live in a home in a community about 30 minutes from the house where I grew up.  It’s only 15 minutes from the home  where my husband’s family lived.  There are small towns and rapidly disappearing farm lands all around us.  Our ‘big’ city is Detroit…and it’s nearly an hour’s drive away….unless the traffic is light and the freeway is free of ice.   We rarely travel those roads.

I think it’s interesting…..miraculous…..how people from – literally – four corners of the earth can be brought together to become a family.  Factor in the two stepdaughters, one son in law and three grandchildren and the ‘quilt’ becomes even more vivid.  Add the silken border of extended family that ribbons from South Carolina to Florida to Maryland to Taiwan to Indonesia…and you have OUR quilt.  We are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Agnostic and maybe Buddhist.  Just another of your average American families.

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2 Comments on “Patchwork”

  1. Miranda Says:

    L, another beautiful blog post! Yesterday’s inauguration and President Obama’s speech was so, so wonderful. I’m still on a high.

  2. Mary Ellen Says:

    What a beautiful image! I love it.
    I’m curious if your daughter remembers anything from her life in Russia… Lucy is 4 now and we have all these great adventures, but I think she probably won’t remember any of them!


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