In the 6th grade, our English class scribbled letters to celebrities. I chose Jody Adams. Because at 11 years old, there was no one more famous in my mind than the point guard of the University of Tennessee women's basketball team. (Richard Dean Anderson received Letter #2 ... because MacGyver.)
But echoing gyms, squeaking shoes, and chanting crowds have occupied delightful years of my life. Of course, less A fact that delights me. So when I got an email announcing kids' leagues at our local YMCA, a surprise giddiness washed over me. I cannot wait to be a basketball mom.
I know... I need to hold it loosely. And I definitely don't want to live vicariously through my children. But still. I want wooden bleachers and sweaty french braids back in my winter routine again.
So I checked in with my kid. "Gabriella, would you want to play on a basketball team at the Y?"
"No. I don't really like kicking the ball that much."
I'm sorry. What? Do you not know what basketball IS?
"Honey, that's soccer. I'm talking about basketball, where you dribble and..."
"Oh, the one where you throw the ball?" she asked dismissively.
"Yes! Would you want to play on a basketball team?"
"No. I think people might throw the ball at me, and it will push me down."
This conversation hovered at the edge of my thoughts. It wasn't her sudden fear of physical contact. I didn't even feel sadness in her showing zero interest in something so important to me. It was this weird realization that she's had little to no exposure to such a big part of my life.
Do I focus too much on her Guatemalan-ness?
Since before she was born, I have been intentional about nurturing her Latina identity. We encourage bilingualism with Spanish songs and books and conversations. We dress her up. We celebrate Guatemalan holidays. We crush piñatas. We travel. We attend a Spanish church. And when it comes to sports, we watch, we talk about, and we cheer for our footballers. Soccer.
But have I neglected my own Southern culture, assuming she will just absorb it living in Atlanta? What about fall football (which, let's be honest, is really "marching band season" with the killer drumlines and arching plumes)? Does she know the taste of chili and cornbread like she knows frijoles? Has she really never captured a lightening bug and peeked at its glow between her fingers?
And is it possible I have never even taught my kids the lyrics to Rocky Top? Because you just can't shake poetic goodness like Once I met a girl on Rocky Top. Half bear, the other half cat. Wild as mink, sweet as soda pop. I still dream about that. Classic.
An ever-expanding bicultural identity
I said "I do" to multicultural marriage already carrying a love for culture and exploration. It's been easy to jump in and adopt my Guatemalan husband's traditions. I embrace Nochebuena with sparkly enthusiasm. I learn to cook ponche and serve it to our friends. And I get hyped about the World Cup because it's an easy way to love my husband and engage global cultures.
As these traditions become a part of my daughter's childhood experience, I am reminded that I also want her to feel connected to her mother's culture, to my Southern-ness. I want to nurture and expand her true bicultural, mashup identity.
So yes, my child, you will ride your very first roller coaster at Dollywood because there is no greater amusement park south of the Mason-Dixon line. And yes, after our "what-is-this-basketball-of-which-you-speak" conversation, I took her with me to my next women's game. And it did my heart good to see her run onto the court after the game to toss granny shots in the vicinity of the hoop.
Next up, I'll need to teach her this little ditty: Rocky Top you'll always be home sweet home to me. Good ol' Rocky Top. Rocky Top Tennessee.
What are the nuggets from your childhood and culture that you want to share with your kids?