Friday, July 22, 2011
Some say we shouldn’t think of ourselves as hyphenated Americans.
I’m a hyphen -- Norwegian-American, first generation from two immigrant parents, both of whom, as adults, came to the land of opportunity, and found it.
Children of immigrants can't help but feel they have one foot in another world. When my parents told stories of their youth, it was about cross country skiing in Telemark, not Des Moines.
We celebrated Christmas on the Eve, and ate ribbe, goat cheese, krumkake, and marzipan (though a nasty bit of business that last one was).
We had pictures of uncles and aunts, grandparents and great grandparents. And the flags they waved didn’t have thirteen stripes and fifty stars.
My dad taught us to respect the Norwegians who came before, most particularly the scientists and explorers – Ericson, Nansen, Amundsen, Thor-Heyerdahl. “Hey Dad,” I’d say, just to needle him. “How come the rest of Europe has so many great artists and writers, and all we have are Ibsen and Grieg?”
So he told me about Knut Hamsun and Svendsen, Bull, Munch, and some of the half breeds like Raold Dahl. I think he wanted to work out some way to claim Mark Twain.
He taught us all the fables, and stories of the Norse Gods. Some pretty good proverbs, as well.
“A minority may be right; a majority is always wrong.”
"Bak skyene er himmelen alltid blå."
I’ve always relished my hyphenated status.
I never feel more American than when I visit Norway. I always feel at least half Norwegian when I’m here at home.
But today, I’m Norwegian, only Norwegian.