Thursday, October 2, 2014

Celebrating My Heritage

President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed October 6, 1983, just a few days after I was born, as German American Heritage Day, and it was officially commemorated four years later in 1987. This day honors the 300th anniversary of the arrival of 13 German families who established the first German settlement on American soil. This community on the northern outskirts of Philadelphia later came to be known as Germantown.

As a kid, I grew up hearing about Germany from my family. My grandparents met when my grandfather was stationed in Germany, and my dad graduated high school there. Over the years, I became more interested in where my family was from, and I decided to take the language in high school.

As my graduation present, my grandparents funded my trip to visit Germany. I set out with my grandma on the adventure I’d waited my entire life for. With passport in hand, I eagerly jetted off to the familiar, yet unknown.

During my trip, I saw as much of Germany as I could, and even stayed several days in nearby Austria. I had the opportunity to spend some time with a girl who was four years older than I, and she took me to places that young people liked to go to: a swimming pool, a dance club and even McDonald’s. She also took me to a barbecue with her friends. They were fascinated with the way I said things, and I was equally fascinated by them.

I also remember sitting with my grandma in local pubs, while she drank her mulled wine and I sipped on my Coca-Cola with two ice cubes. Just listening to her talk with her cousins and their families was worth the miles. I understood what they were saying more than I thought I would, and I delighted in the fact that they included me in what was going on.

The memories I have with my grandma while over there are priceless. She was completely in her element, and I could tell that she loved sharing her heritage with me. They are memories that I hope to one day share with my own child when he’s old enough to travel there with me.

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