A Teachable Moment on Columbus Day

So Eduflack comes from a proud Italian-Amerian family (at least on my paternal side).  My paternal grandfather, the man I was named after, was born Ponzion Ricciardelli.  He was first generation American.  His family came in through Boston, instead of Ellis Island, and you can still find a slew of Ricciardellis stomping around Beantown.

He changed his name to Patrick Riccards in the 1950s, but the pride in our heritage never changed.  My father’s mother is both a Finelli and a Peron (yes, our family is partly responsible for Evita’s 15 and a half minutes of fame).  And as the genealogy goes, I am also descendent of proud Italians who fought on Garibaldi’s right hand in the liberation of Italy itself.
Over the weekend, my princesa, now in the first grade, began telling me all she learned this week about Christopher Columbus.  Typically, Columbus is another one of those pride points for an Italian-American family.  She told me about the three ships and how he sailed, and how he came to America to “discover a land for you and me.”
Those who know me know that both of my children are adopted from Guatemala.  And they know how proud we are of that, as a family.  Both my kids know they are adopted.  They both know about Guatemala  And they both fight us each week as they have to get up extra early for their weekly Spanish class before school starts.  We want them to be proud of their heritage, both that which they were born into and that into which they were adopted.
So imagine my surprise as I took this lesson as a teachable moment to remind my princesa of where she comes from.  First, I congratulated her for all that she had learned and the poem she had written about Columbus.  I then explained to her how she is descendent of the Mayan civilization, and the advances they achieved and how much they had done well before Columbus ever set foot on North America. 
We talked about what descendent meant, about what the Mayan did, and to remind he of where she came from.  She seemed to get most of it.  Asked a few additional questions, then went back to playing with her horses.
In years past, Columbus Day was always one of those great points of pride.  It is still true.  And while I am one of the last people who would ever be called “politically correct,” I found the need to explain, to make sure my kids shared the same pride about their heritage that I do, and understand that there is often more to the story than they might originally hear.
Heritage in an adopted family can be a tricky thing.  By blood, my kiddos are Guatemalan with Mayan ancestry.  On my paternal side, I have my proud Italian-American family.  On my maternal side, I am German-Irish-Scottish, with the Scots bringing a family tie to William the Bruce (of Braveheart fame) and of an alleged witch who was stoned to death in the village square.
The edu-wife offers up a paternal side of Russian Jews.  On her maternal side, she is descendent of an actual signer of the Declaration of Independence (from the Commonwealth of Virginia) and a pirate of the same era.  
We are the American melting pot.  So on this Columbus Day, I am proud of my heritage and equally proud of where my children come from.  I am proud of the Ricciardellis immigrating through Boston, and of my two kiddos immigrating through Houston as I helped them get sworn in as citizens in the bowels of Bush International Airport as they were seven and 13 months old.
Life is full of teachable moments.  I’m glad I was able to take advantage of this one and hope my kids will be able to share the same moment as they explain where they come from and what makes them who they are today, be it Mayan Guatemalan, Italian Catholic, Russian Jew, and pirate.

7 thoughts on “A Teachable Moment on Columbus Day

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