Clark 1Maxine ClarkProfessor David R. DiSarroEnglish 10120 November 2012 A Little Pith and Vinegar for the Melting Pot I went for a walk in my hometown of Beverly with my family today. We parked at DaneStreet Beach and walked the dogs down to Independence Park. My daughter and I collected somevibrant fall leaves to make a collage. I want her to appreciate the beauty of our natural environment.We went down on the beach and saved a couple of clams by tossing them back in the ocean. Shefound a cool piece of sea glass to add to her collection. As we walked along Lothrop Street weadmired the majestic houses lining the ocean while inhaling clean, healthy sea air. The wholeexperience made me take stock of how fortunate I am to live in a place I love so much. One of myfavorite quotes is from the author Richard Bach who said "People are the diamonds, the place is justthe setting." I agree that our relationships are paramount to our personal growth and happiness, but Istill feel that where we live has an effect on shaping the events in our lives, and therefore our identity.This paper recounts my own immigration experience, bringing to light some of the idiosyncrasiesassociated with the event and the subsequent crisis of identity I went through. I havent always been an American. As a child growing up in 1970s Britain, I wasnt reallysure what to think of America. Like most English kids my only knowledge of America was drawnfrom what I had seen on television and in the movies. We had three channels to watch, BBC1, BBC2and ITV, and a lot of the programming we watched came from America. I grew up watching SesameStreet, just like most American kids did in the 1970s, and recall asking my mother if I could go onSesame Street some day. Instead of explaining that the show was produced thousands of miles away,her response was "No, they only pick poor kids to go on." Nevermind that the television we watchedit on was rented because my parents couldnt afford to buy one. On a typical rainy Sunday afternoonour family could be found inside watching dusty old westerns. There was something about seeing all
Clark 2that sand, the canyons, and all those earth tones that made my tongue dry up like a piece of clay. Backthen, British television programming was unpredictable and most programs were shown sporadically.So on Saturday nights in the summer when one of the stations ran "The Wonderful World of Disney,"it was like we had witnessed the holy grail of television shows. I used to tear up with excitement justwatching the introduction. When my father told us we were moving to America, I remember beingvery excited, but not understanding what it actually meant. In my minds eye I pictured a hybrid of acinemascope desert replete with cowboys and Indians blending in with 1960s Technicolor landscape.My imagination went wild at the prospect of a new life in America. What I didnt take into accountwas all that we would leave behind. When my parents told their own parents about the move, my Nana Beckett, my maternalgrandmother, took the news in stride. My grandfather had passed away two years before and she hadfour other children and ten more grandchildren besides my brother and me. On the other hand, mypaternal grandparents didnt take the news nearly as well. My father was their only child and mybrother and I, in turn, their only grandchildren. Air travel back then was very expensive, but theypledged to come and visit whenever they could. I was sad to leave behind all of my relatives, butparticularly my paternal grandparents who brought gifts and candy on every visit. I still have the fanand a pair of castanets they brought me back from a visit to Spain, which I used to frequently playwith as a child. My brother and I usually walked or took the bus everywhere with my mother, so the day myfather took us on a rare car trip to Bristol to get our passports was a memorable one. He insisted wenot smile in our pictures or else our applications would be rejected. He became more and moreaggravated with me as he kept feeding money into the picture booth and I kept automatically smilingfor the camera. Finally, he got so angry he made me cry and it took ages to calm down. When I finallydid, into the booth I went, and "snap" went the camera for a perfectly despondent shot. It was a sign ofthings to come.
Clark 3 On moving day we dropped off my hamster Christmas at my Aunty Anns. She had promisedto take good care of her for me. I tried to get Christmas to come out of her nest so I could hold her onelast time, and when I stuck my finger in the doorway of her little plastic house she bit the tip. The daywas off to a bad start. On top of my hamster rejecting me, in a moment of uncharacteristic generosityfor an eight year old, I decided to leave behind my beloved toy dog Cokie for the new owners as ahousewarming gift. Cokie was one of those mechanical toy dogs that ran on a battery, shuffled along,and stopped to bark every few steps. In retrospect, Cokie must have been incredibly grating to myparents, so its no wonder they encouraged me to make the ultimate sacrifice. Of course, Iimmediately regretted it the moment the car pulled out of the drive way. This was the first time my brother and I had ever been on an airplane and we were givenhonorary British Airways Junior Jet Club passbooks to enter our future BA trips (of which therewould be none), and lapel pins depicting a pair of wings imprinted with the British Airways logo. Thethrill of it all didnt last long because less than a couple of hours into the flight, both my brother and Igot airsick and continued being sick for the rest of the flight. We arrived in Boston the afternoon ofDecember 21, 1978. Jack, my fathers supervisor and our sponsor, came to pick us up at the airportand my airsickness turned to car sickness on the ride back to his familys home where we stayed forthe next few days. On the drive, I continued to retch while taking in the sights of Route One out of theside window, past the Hilltop with its plastic cows grazing the side of the highway, and thebewildering number of restaurants, billboards, and lights we passed by. When we finally pulled off ofRoute 128 into Beverly, it was then that I noticed the grey heaps at the side of the road werent madeof dirt, but were grimy icebergs. I had only ever seen snow once before in Yate and it was stayedwhite until it melted within a couple of hours of falling. This was the first of countless comparisons Idrew as I realized I didnt want to live in America after all. But there was no turning back. Jack his wife Marge lived in a modest bungalow, but it was huge by our standards. Mybrother and I were particularly impressed when we were shown a room called the den, which had aloveseat, armchair, and a television. We were offered ginger ale or Dr. Pepper to drink. Fizzy pop was
Clark 4always a big treat, something we didnt drink at home, so my brother and I leapt at the opportunity tosample ginger ale and Dr. Pepper, neither of which we had in England. We were told they were justlike lemonade (Sprite) and Coke. Both tasted too spicy to our bland palates, so in the end we woundup drinking milk. Dinner was a miserable affair once I realized America didnt have Heinzs SaladCream (an insipid mayonnaise-based product), and our hosts graciously offered up a multitude ofvinaigrettes and other types of dressing to compensate for this disappointment, but I didnt like any ofthem. I was cheered by the thought of dessert which was apple pie. How could anyone mess that up?Apparently quite easily by adding cinnamon to the apples and serving it with melted cheese on top. Iwent to bed with a throbbing headache and growling stomach that night, wishing that I would wakeup in my bed, safe and sound in Yate the next morning. In the midst of total culture shock, my brother and I started school in Beverly in January1979. In and out of school, I had difficulty understanding what others were saying, so I learned to bediligent when it came to listening to others. And since none of my classmates knew what I was sayingeither, I quickly assumed a fake American accent, which in time morphed into a real one. I adoptedwords like gross, weird, and wicked into my lexicon, progressively replacing words like tea withdinner, biscuits with cookies, and settee with couch. Letting go was hard and I missed England for along time. I missed my relatives, my friends, my school, the food, the countryside, the wildlife, andmy culture. I felt like I was always drawing comparisons between English and American culture andchoosing sides. Finally, at the age of 24, on September 23, 1994 in Concord, NH I was sworn in as anAmerican citizen. But quite honestly, becoming an American has been a gradual process occurringover the course of my life here. My education, friendships, and travels through the country are allcontributing factors. When I moved to the United States, I had never heard of George Washington,but you better believe I knew who Walt Disney was and that Disneyland was in a place calledCalifornia. The first time I went to Disney World in Orlando was with my husband back when I was
Clark 5in my 20s and we had such a good time that weve been back three more times since. I became moreAmericanized with each successive visit. Looking back, I think the first time I truly felt that America is my home for good was on mywedding day. My husband and I were married in the Rose Garden at Lynch Park in Beverly on abeautiful June day in 1999. With the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop and surrounded by our familiesand close friends, we exchanged our vows. Although I was born in England and my husband was bornin Vietnam, it is here that we found each other. Our daughter was born in December 2003, and ateight years old she is now attending the same school I did at her age when we moved here all thoseyears ago. In a sense when I look at her, I feel like I have come full circle. This is where I belong.