"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Third Culture Kid(s)

My Third Culture Kids
Never, Rory, & Sage

I've finally finished correcting term papers and have submitted my students' final grades. That means that my summer has officially begun (yipee!). Of course, I'll continue to develop new courses and update my existing ones. But it also means I have all the time I need for my kids and to read, explore, and discover to my hearts content. Today I came across an article that got me thinking. Of course I have to blog about it...

21st century Third Culture Family

This afternoon I came across the most interesting article, a letter submitted by a reader: Third Culture Kid(s). I suspect that he/she is a Third Culture Kid too. A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a child reared in a culture outside of your parents' home culture (usually the children of missionaries, military brats, or buisiness men/women who live for long periods of time in different countries). TCK's are usually unable to view the world in a simplistic dualistic way. We can accentuate different facets of our personality and experiences based on who we are talking to - and it's not fake. TCK's don't romanticize any one culture or ideology, we understand that there is good and bad in everything. TCK's represent the 21st century's multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, globalized America.

Christmas 2006

I'm a 1st generation TCK. My father was a 1st generation Greek American; my mother is a 7th generation African American (the grandaughter of an enslaved African American woman). One of my favorite 'dad-stories' was the story of how they met. He saw her across a large room and instantly fell in love. She was recently widowed. That and his shyness made him wait more than year to work up the nerve to ask her out. And when he finally did, she said yes, and on their first date he asked her to marry him. They dated for nearly two years and at the start of every date he'd propose. He always said that the day she said yes was the happiest day of his life.

When they went to his Chicago Greek Orthodox Church to see about getting married, the priest told them that he would never marry an interracial couple. When they went to my mother's Catholic Church, the priest told them that he would never marry an interracial couple. Undeterred, they decided to get married at home. When they went to Chicago's City Hall to apply for a marriage liscense, the clerk refused to issue them one - a year earlier the United States Supreme Court ruled that such practices were illegal. Mom called a lawyer...a few days later they had their liscense. The only people who would agree to marry them was the Salvation Army. So a few weeks later, a Salvation Army minister and his wife performed the ceremony in our living room, before 20 of their closest friends. Dad wore his best suit, mom wore a beautiful powder blue two-piece suit with a silk creme colored blouse, and a gorgeous 5 mini white roses corsage [I have the corsage to this day]. 

My parents on their wedding day (1974)
George Dimogritos Tsenes &
Dorothy Elizabeth Tsenes (nee Harrison).

                                   Mom and Dad (2006)

Me & my beloved big sister - Rory (circa 1978)

So I've always been a TCK, allbeit a version not discussed by the article's author. For I didn't grow up in a foreign country, but I did grow up in a culture outside of my parents' home culture. Dad was an architect, mom an executive secretary for the then largest architectural firm in the world (Skidmore Owings and Merril). Their small group of friends spanned a multitude of ethnicities, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, were conservative, independent, and liberal (ultra to moderate). This group of friends were very close (still are) and spent a lot of time together (traveling, sharing meals, spending time) No one in the group had children except my mom and dad, so Rory and I spent a lot of our formative years with adults.  

Some of the surviving members of my parents'
'Third Culture' group of friends (2009)

And they took us everywhere: to the office and company functions, libraries, bookstores, the opera, art museums, galleries, restaurants, the theatre, caberets, nightclubs. I can't remember when we began to travel - it seems like I've always been traveling. My parents were very deliberate in their decision to expose my sister and I, and themselves to as much as possible...

And since their group spanned so many religions, my sister and I went to Temple (Jewish and Buddhist), Orothdox Greek and Russian, Mosque, Hindu, Sikh, and Protest services - all while being raised Roman Catholic. Our Godmother is Mexican/Indian, our Godfather Catholic/Irish turned Born Again Christian. Their Best Man Pakistani, our after-school tutor Native American, our babysitter a lesbian Black Woman - oh and I grew up in Chicago's famous (or infamous?) 'Boy's Town' (a primarily LBGT neighborhood on Chicago's lakefront). See what I mean about being a TCK?

Now one might think that such a girlhood was be confusing, jumbled - it wasn't. My parents were (and still are) my foundation, my rock. And for all of their differences, my parents' TCK group were/are all wonderful, good, decent, kind people. Not perfect by any means, just...people. People who like and love each other enough to accept, embrace, their differences.

Girlfriends (1997)
We called ourselves the United Nations ;-}

My Bestie, 30 years and counting - E Horowitz
My sistah from another mister, my children's godmother
the best friend a woman could ever wish, hope or ask for.

With such a varied, deep, wide, and loving girlhood, it was inevitable that when I became a teenager, I too would become a member of a Third Culture group of friends. As with my parents, my group of friends spanned a multitude of ethnicities, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, were conservative, independent, and liberal (ultra to moderate). It should come as no surprise, then, that I fell in love with, married and had a bunch of babies with a German/Irish TCK  - my beloved Mr. Gorgeous ;-) And we're happily raising a third generation of TCKs.

2 August 1997

Mother's Day 2012

My beloved Tuya & Amy
5 years ago these two gorgeous young ladies (former students) informed me that they'd discussed it and decided that we all should be friends 
and they were going to keep me. 
And that was it ;-}

Being a TCK intimately effected where I chose to complete my undergrad and two grad degrees (a Jesuit university), my course of study and my choice of career - a university history professor. It also, intimately informed where I wanted to teach. I'm a professor at a small Mid-western Catholic university that boasts an incredibly diverse student body.

My Converging Hemispheres Class (Spring 2011)

My university has a strong commitment to TCK ideology: I'm proud to be a founding member of their Global Studies program, we routinely host (and offer scholarships) to students from France, China, the Middle East, Africa and points in between. The administration allows me to teach and discuss freely with my students. And my students are willing and eager to share their diverse experiences and viewpoints.

My Contemporary World Class (Spring 2011)

My girlhood tangibly taught me that to view the world as being dualistic/binary black and white (literally and figuratively) was not only sadly simplistic, but completely non-sustainable. And womanhood confirmed it. So too is the impulse by some people (right and left) to homogenize the world. How can one detach themselves from the world and fully live within it? How can a person fully experience and realize all of the benefits that travel, history, study, reading, learning, living and loving can bestow while being frightened, distrustful, and disdainful of the 'other?' Why be afraid to engage the world?

Letting loose after finals ;-}

Thank you for indulging my rant. And what a grand rant it was. It's just that for the past two years there's been a disturbing public debate about who's American and who's not; who's deserving of that recognition and who's not. And from people who should know better! What I find even more disturbing is that some people (left and right) are using skin color, religious affiliation, socio-economic status, and political affiliation as a litmus test to apply or deny a person's citizenship and even humanity. And both sides, who use this litmus test, are actually on the same side: "they speak the language of a time gone by and really get very little of what is going on" (the last sentence of the 'Third Culture Kids' article).

Pick up any history text, America has never been all of one 'thing,' being it religion, gender, ethnicity, political affiliation, or socio-economic persuasion. And that is, always has been, always will be, this country's greatest strength. Here's a homework assignment (I am a professor after all). Click on: InfoPlease: Firsts in America. It will blow your mind. Then do a Google search: the earliest "..." in America; and put in whatever designation you like: Chinese, Irish, African, Polish, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Woman, Midwife, French Poodle, etc. I'd love to know what you find. Then you'll learn what I've always known - America has always been 'Third Culture.'

4th Gen TCK ;-}

*While doing a bit of blog maintenance, I discovered that this post is my most viewed - 500 and counting. So I re-read it and decided to update it. The updates are primarily the addition of photographs. Yes, I have slightly edited the text, but only for typos and grammatical content (yeah, you can take the professor out of the classroom ...). And I reserve the right to add photographs at will (yeah, it's totally a photographer-thang). My final update is my heartfelt invitation/request to you for your comments, insight(s), etc. I always love hearing from you, learning from you.

Peace, chocolate, champagne, and bien sur Paris ;-}
13 March 2013

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...