Friday, April 23, 2010

Being Nice

In World War II we fought the Japanese and years after that war we heard that our grade school principal had a GI son who stayed in Japan and married a woman there. It was years before he brought his family to his hometown. What a shock that must have been for our provincial community. After all, George Washington was said to sleep in the tavern across from our Baptist church.
Greenville was a pretty town in those days, full of apple trees. In the fall Mr. Windsor would open his roadside stand to sell a wide variety of applies: Macintosh, Winesap, Northern, Baldwin. We, our family, didn't need to buy any of them in my grade school days - we just ate them off the trees around our home as we walked through the orchards to catch the bus to school each day. Fifty years later when I visit my childhood home, I am saddened to find all the fruit trees around the house are gone and I see only empty fields.
I remember we pitied the French-Canadian children whose parents worked in the fabric mills at the edge of town. Mother would say, "Be nice to them", as we took the clothes we'd outgrown to their homes.
But it is the "being nice," and "feeling sorry" that I speak of today - unknow to my mother it put up a barrier, an unseen wall between us, accentuated us as different. How much richer our childhood would have been had we shared their heritage, heard their family stories of coming to America.
It would be many years before I discovered my Mother was an eleventh generation "Yankee", whereas my Father was one of the first generation Italians to be born here. What we could have shared with our French-Canadian classmates, weren't we also an intesting mix?

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