I’ve always tried to instill in our children an understanding of and appreciation for our roots, whether it be through stories of our own family tree or stories of our country. I believe that it’s important to honor the memory of those who have gone before us, as well as to learn our lessons from history so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
It can be easier to keep these lessons alive when there is a shared common heritage and a universal understanding of the importance of preserving the memories of the past. Historical sites and reenactments, monuments, parades, and even patriotic movies that dominate the popular culture can all help reinforce this sense of historic awareness and national identity.
However, what can we do to keep the lessons of the past alive when there is not a supportive community reinforcing the importance of these lessons? For instance, I’ve read several articles lately lamenting the fact that visits to historical sites are down and have been decreasing for the past many years; there seems to be a flagging interest in remembering our shared national story.
Even beyond the issue of waning attentiveness shown to our cultural history within the borders of our own country, my family is currently experiencing a bit of cultural isolation as a result of living in a different country.
Peruvians take great pride in their rich history. Locals wear the colors of their flag during many of their numerous national holidays (or when following an important futbol match). Streets are named after significant dates, and parks and plazas abound with statues of local and national heroes. The map of our own hometown includes streets such as “7 de Enero” and “8 de Octubre.” Plaques and historical markers are sprinkled liberally throughout the city—and this isn’t even a famous or “touristy” town.
Of course everything in Peru is all about Peru—and that represents a wonderful opportunity to learn and explore. I want to take advantage of our time here to soak up all we can about the history and culture of this amazing country. But I want to make sure we don’t neglect our own country’s incredible history.
We’ll be spending this Independence Day as strangers in a strange land. There won’t be any Fourth of July parades to attend. No one will be hosting any red, white and blue BBQs. If we want a strawberry-blueberry-whipping-cream cake, we’ll have to make it ourselves.
And I might very well do that. We can keep our traditions alive and even share them with others. We could host an American Independence Day party for our friends here and share some of our classic cookout foods while playing patriotic music. (I’ve also thought it would be wonderful to host a traditional Thanksgiving feast for our Peruano friends and introduce them to the delights of stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce, if I could only manage to source a turkey.)
During the 75th anniversary of D-Day in early June, our family participated in remembrance from afar. We watched commemoration ceremonies online, searched for interviews from D-Day survivors, looked up vintage footage from the Normandy landings, and watched some movie clips depicting the landings as well as the paratrooper jumps into France. We’ve taught general WWII history to our kids, but this was the most specific and comprehensive exposure our kids have had yet to this historic event.
Our 8-year-old was so mesmerized by the topic that he continued asking questions and making comments for days:
- Was Papa a soldier in the D-Day war?
- How many soldiers from the war are still alive?
- Do we know anyone from D-Day?
- It’s a good thing all those soldiers were fighting for us.
This is the kind of thoughtfulness and appreciation we want our children to attain. I’m thankful for every opportunity to cultivate this mindfulness and gratitude. And if the opportunities don’t come to us, I’m glad we can make our own.
Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of author.