Take Me Out To The Ball Game
The crack of the bat. The smell of leather and popcorn. Thechanting, the songs, the umpires....God, I hate baseball.
For years, I was forced to participate in my school's team and I count it as one of the greatest traumas of my life. With no co-ordination, hand-eye skills or desire, I can safely say I was the worst player that ever stepped foot onto that field. Each year, I would beg to be cut from the line-up, but being in such a small school, they needed all of the players they could get. So I stood in right-field and seethed. A life-long loathing of America's past-time was born on that grassy expanse in Lisbon, Iowa.
With all of this behind me, why then do I have fleeting moments of deep love for the American bat and ball game? Why on earth is there a slight sadness about the fact my son will never play? Why do pictures of friends' children at their Little League games bring a tear to my eye?
I think it has something to do with nostalgia. While doing research in India, I remember reading a newspaper article about a study of Indian immigrants to the UK and US. Researchers found that expats would frequently take on a stronger stereotypical cultural identity in their adopted country than at home. For example, women would wear saris whereas in India they wore western dress. Indian food was cooked and consumed more frequently and other cultural markers were adopted with more vigour than previously.
When asked why they did this, the common response was simply that they missed these aspects of their culture and wanted to preserve parts of their identity. In short, they were nostalgic.
I catch myself becoming intransigent about certain Americanisms. I refuse to rhyme the words, "claw" and "war" or "plane" and "again" when we read stories. I force everyone to eat s'mores when we camp, even though I don't really like them. I made my husband stay up all night for the American elections. I see other expats doing similar things. Scots in America wearing kilts as day-to-day attire. A Japanese friend wears a kimono to all fancy events, even though she admits she hates the thing. A Polish colleague who forces her girls to go to the Polish Language and Dancing classes in their town, even though she and her daughters are all terrible dancers and don't enjoy it very much.
I can't help but think of the Owens Lee Pomeroy quote, "Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson. You find the present tense, but the past perfect." We distil the essence of our home culture (or our childhoods) into the iconic moments, tastes, sounds and experiences that are normally just pieces of the larger "way of life" soup we inhabit. These things are easily transportable, easily assigned to a specific culture and blurred by the distance of time and space that we now look back upon them...even if we didn't particularly love them the first time 'round.
Parenting in this environment is a fine balance. On one hand, I want E-man to understand and value his heritage, on another I want him to feel like he belongs to this place. I can give him a taste of what an American childhood is like, but must remember to not make him suffer too much.
And so for the meantime, I will request a T-ball set from America, put on some rose-tinted glasses and yell, "Batter Up!"