I am sitting at my sunny Canadian kitchen table. I have turned the television on to The Latin Network (TLN) where Nick and I get our Italian fix. It is the first round of the UEFA Euro Cup 2012 - Italy is playing Ireland and I am watching it in Italian. What a dilemma! I don’t know who to cheer for. My father’s family came from Donegal and the one visit my daughter and I made to Ireland (Cork) was meaningful for both of us. Somehow the green fields of Ireland are in my DNA and the rolling hills dotted with sheep felt like coming home. But Italy is my adopted home. Nick and I have not yet bought la nostra casa siciliana (our Sicilian house), and my upbringing was far from anything that my Sicilian-Canadian husband experienced yet I am drawn to this place that he and I will soon be calling our second home. Six years ago, very early on in our relationship, Nick and I watched Italy win the World Cup. Now, you must understand that my husband is not a sports fan in any way. He is much happier reading a biography or watching an obscure video on his iPad. But, just as I watch and cheer for the Vancouver Canucks in the playoffs to the Stanley Cup (hockey) and the BC Lions in their race for the Grey Cup (Canadian football), watching Italy play for the World Cup or the Euro Cup is in his blood and, if he were not at work, he would, in all likelihood, be here watching it with me today.
The teams are not evenly matched. I may be a neophyte football fan but even I can see that Italy is far outplaying Ireland. It is only Ireland’s outstanding goalkeeper, Given, that keeps the score at 0-0 for so long. The Irish in the stands, covered with green paint never let up their cheering and right next to them the Italian fans are shouting just as loudly and waving the Italian flag. Given stopped a truly impressive number of shots on goal but in the end Italy took the match 2-0.
This is the quintessential Canadian dilemma. Unlike the United States’ melting pot, Canada truly is a cultural mosaic. It may not be perfect, and we certainly have our fair share of racists and xenophobes, but overall the cultural mosaic is entrenched in our Canadian identity. So who am I? Certainly (as the Molson beer ad says) I am Canadian, but as I compared my childhood experiences to that of my husband, I can see how influenced by my English, Welsh and Irish backgrounds my family of origin is. From the food that my mother cooked (roast beef with Yorkshire pudding every Sunday dinner) to the more intrinsic and insidious way that our family took on the “stiff upper lip” that is a hallmark of my grandfather’s British culture, we are Anglo-Irish through and through. When we visit Nick’s cousins and I listen to them argue and shout at each other I know that it means little and it is no more an indication of lack of love that my father’s taciturn nature was to me.
But there is more to our mosaic than just the history of our family of origin. I spent three years of my life in Japan – three years that defined who I am as an adult. My first husband was Japanese and my daughter is Nikkei-jin, Japanese Canadian. In my soul there is a spot that will always be occupied by the aspects of Japanese culture that were and are dearest to me. And now, my heart and soul have been opened to Sicily and my husband’s wonderful family. Who we are is molded and shaped by our experiences, by whom we know and love, by the places we live and visit. I may not be Japanese or Italian but those cultures have left their indelible marks on me. I am grateful to be from a place that values characteristics and practices from all cultures. It makes me who I am today.