A Mouse's Tale

Random scurryings of a writer.

Reclaiming Heritage

On the way home from doing errands, Vaughn slept soundly in his car seat. I found my mind drifting to a hobby that I had started dabbling in a while ago, one that I really haven’t had time to think about or read about since his birth. It’s a hobby that was started specifically with our future children in mind and one that I was really into, spending copious amounts of time on it. While driving down route 201, heading towards our little town and homestead, the rain was a wonderful backdrop to my thoughts on my hobby.

This hobby is tied directly to Vaughn’s name. He’s named after my grandfather mostly, but it’s also my mother’s maiden name, and a surname that has died out of the family save for it being his first name. There’s no one else to carry it on as my only uncle on that side has a daughter and no sons. I’m glad we had a son first. Looking into family trees to learn a better sense of what the name meant, who shared and shares it, and where our family came from became a bit of an obsession. Obviously I studied all sides, including my mother’s, father’s, and in-laws’. The name Vaughn sticks with me as I always assumed it was French seeing as my great-grandfather brought the name down from Nova Scotia, like many other Vaughns. But it’s not.

Vaughn comes from Wales.

Let me pause here and address what got me thinking about all this. The book I’m reading right now deals with an Indian-American teenager who is trying to reconnect with her heritage after avoiding her heritage for most of her life. This is the second or third time I’ve read this book; each time being as an adult in different stages of college. Previously I found myself jealous about the girl having a heritage, much like her best friend in the novel. Why is it that only those that have a 100%something-American name get to have a heritage? I wish I had a heritage I could share and be a part of the the point of near saturation.

“You do,” said a little voice inside my head as I drove.

“No, I don’t,” I replied a little snarky. “I’m a Mainer, that’s about it. I’m French-English-Welch-Heinz 57-American, and probably a squirt of mustard. I have no heritage.”

“Wrong and right: A heritage is what you are, but it doesn’t have to be just one ancestry.”

It was like a massive light bulb going on. Or more like a disco ball. That little voice was right. I do have a heritage that I can claim. My family has never been one to talk about ancestry and where we come from. Part of that seems to have died in my grandparents generation with the want to “blend in” and become the average 1950s American family. I was surprised to find out as much as I have in the hand full of hours that I’ve poured into background research, but it’s not enough.

African-American, Indian-American, Mexican-American, French-American…why is it that only the 100%something-Americans get to scream their culture at the top of their lungs? It’s as if those of us that would have to use more than one hyphen need to just say we’re a U.S. citizen and be happy with it. We lose our heritage and with it a large piece of our identity. We live in a melting pot, don’t we? A giant stew pot that all the ingredients go into. Why is it that only the guava, curry, jalapenos, and wine get to stand out and make their claim on the flavor of a rather interesting dish? What about the cinnamons, saffrons, and various nectar that come from elsewhere? If the U.S. is truly a melting pot where all identities are welcome, shouldn’t the 20%+80%something-Americans, the 10%+60%+25%+5%something-Americans, and everyone that’s anyassortmentof%-Americans also strive to be tasted in the stew? Do we need to hide and remain out of our heritage because we’re mongrels? No. It’s time that we’re tasted, tested, and made ourselves just as known.

I want our son to know that he has a heritage. I want him to be the kid that can share the history of Wales when the teacher acts like the British Isles are only the UK, Scotland, and Ireland. I want him to be the one that can share with the class that not only can he trace his father’s line back to Nottinghamshire (true story), but that also can recite part of the Celtic creeds that his mother’s ancestors belonged to. While studying Maine history, I want Vaughn to stand up and be able to tell the intriguing story of how the Vaughans (as the original spelling had been until three generations about) moved to Nova Scotia as part of the resettlement that forced out the Acadians into the  St. John Valley, the Phocas dit Raymonds being amongst them.

He will learn his heritage. We will learn our heritage. As a family we will regain what has been lost.

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