Friday, July 23, 2010

Speaking of Family

Speaking of family - how unique is it to meet eight second cousins who’ve traveled all the way from Denmark to California? This past weekend I enjoyed this phenomena when I, along with five other cousins who live in California, met eight Danish cousins for the first time. The fact that our grandparents were siblings made it very unique and quite special.

In his early twenties, my grandfather and his brother left their native Denmark and traveled to America on the Lusitania, December of 1909. They left behind their parents, a brother and two sisters. My grandfather settled in Nebraska as a farmer and my uncle decided to try his luck in Iowa. Grandpa returned to his homeland when he was 82 years old and died before he could return to America.

What I found most interesting is that the Danish cousins’ command of the English language was good enough for them to travel here and communicate with us. I feel sad that I didn’t learn enough Danish to speak with them in their language. I grew up hearing Danish spoken in my grandparents’ home and when they spoke English their accent was quite strong. They learned English when my aunt went to school and became Americans.

We’ve always had foreigners in our home and have grown used to so many different accents. I had up to forty-one foreign penpals at one time beginning in 1989. Over the years I’ve lost some of my pen friends, but still write and speak on the phone with quite a few of them. We have added a Dutch son, his wife and their adopted Columbian sons to our family along with our Swedish exchange daughter and her husband. Our Magdalena still considers us her parents. Going through the exchange program was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made

Having many nationalities in our lives, we’ve learned as a family over the years how much alike we all are. Having a teenage Swedish daughter proved that point very clearly. Learning different customs and new ways of approaching life has always fascinated me. We’ve been lucky enough to visit many countries and several of my penpals have visited us. It has enriched our lives and has also helped me with my writing. I love to bring characters into my stories who bring varied nationalities with them. It also helps to have them as a resource when you want to add phrases into your dialogues.

13 comments:

Sheila Tenold said...

Yes, having family from another country is amazing. Mine are Slovenian. Until this year's Soccer World Cup many Americans were unaware of my grandparents's homeland. It's a beautiful country and I love my extended family there.

Mona Risk said...

Marlene, I thorouly enjoyed hearing about a meeting of so many foreign cousins. I can relate to extended family abroad, with relatives in Canada, Australia, France, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, and Egypt. And my son's inlaws in Russia. But we gave up on big reunion.

Grandma Vonnie said...

What a lovely post. My step-son and his wife, a native Berliner, live in Berlin. We are treated to warm German hospitality when we vist her family. You mention penpals; an enjoyable pasttime that so many people miss out on, including me. I wish I had penpals living abroad, but finding interested individuals who are not scammers in some way is difficult. Enjoy those whom you have. I'm sure you brighten their world.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks, Sheila. I appreciate you stopping by and talking with me today. Being an avid writer and talker, I never seem to not have something to share with my pen friends.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

You are one of the most traveled friends I have. I have always thought getting to visit other cultures is such a great way to expand your interests. I know it has mine.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Grandma Vonnie, I know how lucky I am to have such devoted pen friends. Originally I found them through an International Pen Friend Organization that I learned about on the Phil Donohue show. Those of us who were interested send our names in and in return received 20 names and addresses of others who were interested - the requirement was that we could write in English. My very first pen friend was from Germany and we are still writing to each other. My pen friend from New Zealand calls every now and then and I love her accent and zest for life. But, I have also learned how lucky we are to have the privileges we have in America.

Donna Goode said...

You've had a wealth of experiences, Paisley! I loved hearing about it. Thanks for sharing. The only foreign guests we've ever hosted are my cousins from Northern Ireland. Now that was an experience! Not them, as it happens but what happened after they left that had nothing to do with my lovely cousins! The steam still seeps from my ears!
But...that's another story.
~Donna

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Hi Donna, Your unshared story sounds interesting. :)

We've had guests from Germany, Romania, Isle of Wight, Sweden, Holland, Denmark, Canada, Italy, Guatamaula, and I am sure others that don't come to mind at the moment.

My penpal from Romania lives in the village located right below the real Count Dracula's castle and the villagers were the farmers that produced the food for the Count. He was so interesting in all of his thoughts of who Americans are and sharing his customs. The poor man - my husband thought the louder he spoke the easier it would be for Cristache to understand him. His written English is amazing good, but not his spoken.

Jill James said...

Paisley, what a great thing to have new family to meet. My family is very small and scattered, you are very lucky.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Thanks, Jill. It's the same for us actually. We have a small family, too. Three of the cousins (siblings) that I got to see over the weekend I haven't seen in 25 years. They are living in other states so that made it even more special.

Arwen said...

The Lusitania? Now there's a vessel with a story or two thousand. :) Very cool that you got to meet them. My aunt tracked down cousins in Ireland and has visited them. I want to some day.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

When I first heard about them sailing on the Lusitania, Arwin, I had to do some research. Amazingly my grandfather never talked about that part of his life.

Hope you do have the chance to visit Ireland. Great Britain is a beautiful place. My other ancestors come from Scotland and the gorgeous country definitely captured my heart and soul.

Joanne said...

Paisley,
We also have an international family. We hosted 2 exchange students years ago--one was from Ireland and one from Germany--and they still call me "mom". And, our beautiful daughter was adopted from S. Korea.