July 4th or December 4th?

Fourth of July (Flickr/Mykl Roventine)When I was asked to write a blog for an early July post, it made perfect sense to tie this article to our nation’s Independence Day, but I hesitated. For me, my siblings and parents, December 4th is equally as significant as Fourth of July – that’s when we celebrate freedom.

We don’t have fireworks, hot dogs or apple pie. We don’t tend to congregate in the same locale, because we are geographically dispersed throughout the US – and, it’s not a national holiday (which complicates things). But we celebrate it quietly. We reflect, in awe, at what my parents went through as political exiles entering a country they had honeymooned in, but were not intimate with– and one which they never dreamed of ever inhabiting permanently.

On the 4th of December, 1961 my parents left everything behind (as the saying goes), except for their children, the clothes on their backs, $15 US, their education, and hope.

This doesn’t mean I take the 4th of July lightly; on the contrary. I am probably as much, if not more impacted by it than many of my friends -including my spouse. Why? The novelty of the holiday is still with us; the struggles that allow us to celebrate it have greater immediacy. In our case, my family has celebrated the Fourth for almost 50 years; not hundreds. It’s not a holiday, it’s a holy day.

On the other hand, my husband’s family has lived in the US for twelve generations, can trace their roots to the founders of Rhode Island, and came on the ship that arrived behind the Mayflower – the Fortune, in 1621.His family roots run deep into this nation’s soil. The holiday is meaningful, yet it also carries a sense of permanence. His family is firmly planted and assimilated to our American land. We, however, are planted closer to the surface, more exposed and susceptible to the elements, and not totally incorporated into our new earth.

That said, we don’t have to dust off diaries or Google our relatives names to learn about our forebear’s experience as immigrants. We just ask our parents (rarely, I may add, because it’s not a topic they like to relive)….like a scar they can barely see, they remember clearly how it happened, and sadly, how it felt.

This is just one of the many things that being a second-generation immigrant means. We’re closer to momentous events in our family’s history, closer to painful memories, closer to bifurcated childhoods (where one language and culture is practiced inside of our home, and a different one, outside), closer to prejudice, and ultimately – closer to hope.

Coming to peace with this duality is what ultimately gives us true independence, and living in a country that lets us commemorate it – well, that’s a cause for celebration. Understanding these life events, their impact on the second-generation’s lives, and the duality lived by many immigrant children, should be top of mind for all brands interested in tapping this fast-growing segment.

Happy Fourth of July.