Mother’s Day time for cultural reflection

By Clyde Davis: CNJ columnist

Beyond the sentiments, what are your roots? What I mean is, inspired by Mother’s Day but not limited to that, what do you know and value about your ethnic origins, your cultural origins, your background in terms of heritage, location, awareness of who you are and who you have sprung from?

It might be done on an immediate and very concrete level. For example, have you ever wondered why you behave in a certain manner, have certain preferences, certain strong dislikes, and certain predispositions? Looking back a generation or two, you might discern the answers.

I want to make it clear that I don’t believe in an across-the-board “got that from” theory. By that I mean, those who want to look at every factor in a person’s life, everything from liking dill pickles to standing 6 feet, 7 inches tall, and exclaim “He got that from (so and so)!!!!” That becomes nauseating after about 15 seconds.

But there are traits, learned or inborn, that might surface and be traced.

From father: Likes to play in the dirt (aka gardening). Likes to participate in sports. Likes the water.

From mother: Likes to read and travel. High pain tolerance (if you think that’s a plus, try walking around with a broken ankle and not knowing it).

So beyond the flowers and the candy, the heartfelt cards and the trip to a restaurant, on this Mothers’ Day, where do you come from?

Knowing who we are can, in odd times and places, reaffirm our individual identity. When friends of Irish origin were in town starting up the cheese factory, they consistently and subliminally Celticized my name, giving it the original pronunciation, not the Anglicized version some check-in dude at Ellis Island wrote 100 years ago because he couldn’t be bothered pronouncing the Welsh words. It was kind of cool.

On the other hand, it can be kind of embarrassing. In our generation, ethnicity is not always belied in a name.

Confronted with the fact that most Welsh people can sing, in fact lyrically and beautifully, I have to remind the critic that only my name and one-fourth of me draw on that gene pool. In my case, the genes swimming in that pool were anything but musical.