We Americans are a mixed-up bunch.  With heritages too varied to count, often the only thing we have in common is that our ancestors came from somewhere else! 

My mom’s family settled here when this country was in its infancy.  Her great, great, great, uncle was the first governor of Illinois and was a good friend of Abraham Lincoln’s.   The two of them would sit at the dining room table and talk over the problems of the day. 

However, on my father’s side, HE was the one who came over from Norway as a young man.  He promised his mother that he was only going for a vacation, but it was 25 years before he set foot in his birth country again (for his father’s 80th birthday).  When asked why he didn’t return earlier his reply was always the same, “Because I am an American now.”

We used to tease Dad about his accent and speech patterns and he took it with good grace.  I have dim recollections of him taking night classes in English at the local college as he tried to fit into his adopted country.  Even when times were hard, he never looked back.  He never wondered if life would have been better in Norway.  America was his home and that was that.

Even though I was only one “vacation trip” away from having been born in another country (or really NOT being born at all), I tend to forget that.  And when the 4th of July rolls around, it becomes more about the potato salad and fireworks than it does about the birth of this nation and its varied people. 

Perhaps I should feel embarrassed about that, but part of me feels that that is exactly why my ancestors moved here in the first place.  To be able to live in a place where their children didn’t have to think about freedom.  They just lived it.

So, whether you’re celebrating with hot dogs and burgers or lutefisk and lefse, let’s raise a glass to our brave ancestors who had the courage to seek a better life in this melting pot we call the United States.


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