Clippings: International, interconnected in U.S.

From the start life has offered me an international perspective.

My dad was born in England of Scottish parents, and I spent my first year on a Royal Air Force base in Yorkshire. That came before my family decided to move to my mom’s native Fall River, Mass. Rumor has it England was not big enough for my mom and my granny.

But that stateside stay didn’t last long. My dad took a job as a doctor in a family medical practice in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, just outside of Halifax. We lived there for three years before he opened up his own practice back in Mass., in Westport, next to Fall River.

During my decade there, we owned imported cars that no one else had or probably even had heard of, like Mercury Capris (a collective European effort), English Triumphs and German Borgwards. My dad always insisted that Borgward only went bankrupt because the cars were made too well and lasted too long — no planned obsolescence, he said.

 Finally, I think my mom put her foot down, and they started buying American Fords. My older daughter ended up with the last of that long line, a Focus. The first were a Mustang for my dad and a Fairlane station wagon for my mom.

Eventually, I married into a family that now includes members that can trace their heritage to three different continents. One is a first-generation immigrant and a college professor, making their two children second-generation. My wife’s grandfather came to the U.S. from Ireland, much as my dad did from England, so many of us are relative newcomers.

Over the years, many things have reminded me that we all live in an increasingly multi-cultural, interconnected world.

Most recently, when my wife visited our daughters in Boston for the weekend and I was stuck working back home, I went to pick up takeout at the Indian restaurant in our little Vermont town. The owner sometimes politely urges me to try new dishes, but I tend to order my two or three familiar favorites. I’m probably just a stick-in-the-mud, but I tell her I’m just trying to be a healthy eater and choosing entrées with vegetables.

That Saturday, Taste of India was a bit busy, and my customary Chicken Jalferezi wasn’t quite ready yet. While waiting I sat in front of a statue of an Indian goddess holding Canadian and U.S. flags. Behind me a table of 10 Middlebury College students, all apparently from Africa, celebrated one of their birthdays, happily, noisily.

At one point, the students all laughed at another’s joke. Another responded, telling the group, well, that figures, he’s Nigerian. More laughter, and some smiles from other diners.

Also for the past year or so I’ve been playing lunchtime pickup soccer a couple times a week at the college’s new fieldhouse, a game organized by Panther women’s soccer coach Peter Kim. Well, playing might be too kind a word, but at least I have exercised and so far avoided injury.

 Participants have included Pedro, Diego, Andres and Mohammed. Last spring, several Mexican farm workers attended; one had his favorite team’s full kit. Andrew hails from Jamaica, and is kind enough to joke with an aging defender also named Andrew that he finds it difficult to score goals on him. For a while this winter, Diego’s brother-in-law Emiliano, visiting from Uruguay, joined us.

Now, truly, none of this is remarkable, nor should it be. That’s really the point.

But, as my favorite late-night talk show host says, one more thing. We recently learned that our nephew Liam, the college professor’s son, is now one of many babies that can be seen on boxes of Huggies — Little Snugglers for 2-year-olds, to be exact.

Liam’s great-grandparents grew up about 7,000 miles apart. That is remarkable, and the country that can bring together so many people — and families like ours — can be remarkable, too.

He’s not just a face of Huggies. He’s a face of America.


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