When I first think of being Norwegian (or a quarter Norwegian), I think of things like the flag, the land, the pale people, the socialism, and maybe even Garrison Keillor.
These modern-day associations stand in contrast with how I look at my Irishness (or my quarter+ of Irishness). I think of the ancient Celtic mists, the druids and runes of antiquity, the high kings and holy hills, all historical-mythical things.
But wait a second, Norse mythology deserves some attention too! It might even be more interesting than Irish mythology, considering the pantheon (extensive), story lines (full of mirth and surprises), and the fact that it has a beginning, middle and end, something even the Greeks never quite mustered.
And let us not forget the Viking invasion of Ireland, which I’ve heard is responsible for all the red haired, freckle-faced gingers who are seen as distinctly Irish.
Yes the Norse and Viking heritage is nothing to be scoffed at.
For me, this realization began when a Russian-looking Turkish student of mine stopped me while we were washing our hands in the bathroom one day. He took one look at my face and said “Viking!”
That made me stop and think, maybe this Norwegian side of me does loom large in the man I’ve become and am to become.
Hmmm, well either way, I’ll be happy to look at this year as my Year of being 1/4 Norwegian!
Sean McCandless (Mike’s son)
Is my nationality half-Norwegian? What does that mean? That I am or was a Norwegian citizen? Well, that doesn’t work. Am I half-Norwegian culturally? Sounds strange since I’m just now trying to learn about Norwegian culture. Genetically? Genes don’t have nationalities. Ethnically? Popular word these days, but what does it really mean? I’ve decided I’m just half-Norwegian because one set of grandparents emmigrated to the USA from Norway. What I’m trying to do is get involved with that ancestral fact, embrace it like I was embracing them and all their forebearers…something I’ll never be able to do in this lifetime. I’ve decided it’s worth the effort.
When I was eight or nine, I had a remote-control airplane with a “glow plug” motor and a control cable to guide it around a gradually widening circle until it ran out of fuel and glided to a two-point landing ready for re-fueling and more fun. I used precious birthday money to buy the plane; hurriedly put it together; and took my little Piper Cub or whatever down to the corner where the street was wide enough for a good test.
I primed the motor, spun the nylon propeller to get it going, and launched my beauty into the air for its maiden flight. I can still see it nosedive into the pavement, my aviation adventure over. I never had another remote-control anything. What was the point?
Life experiences like this one are partly about what led up to them. In life, the people who went before me matter. Their lives and their cultures and histories have something to do with how my life turns out. Learning about my ancestors helps me know where I’m coming from, a key variable in knowing where I’m going. You never know what will make a difference.
Until recently, I’d missed most every opportunity to know more about the people and culture that came to me through my Norwegian-American mother, who certainly had a lot to do with how my life got started. I’ve decided to commit this year, 2014, to learning about what it means to be half-Norwegian. I hope that those who follow along get curious about their origins, too.