Home: My Only Home

Dana - Parlin, New Jersey
Entered on November 10, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

Never in my life have I felt as if I knew exactly where I came from or where I belonged. Because of this, many times I have felt very incomplete. Growing up, my parents neither stressed the importance of religion, nor took pride in our family’s cultural decent. Perhaps the reasoning for this is because my mother is Jewish and my father is Catholic and neither one of my parents desired to risk conflict in our household over something that was, to them, less important than their love for each other. As for culture, my ancestors came from all over Europe, without one dominant country. As a result, when my second grade teacher asked my class to write a story about where our family came from, I felt lost and I did not know where to start.

Being raised in a town that was dominantly Christian from the age of three and attending summer programs every summer that were dominantly Jewish, I never knew what to say when asked what religion I was. Sometimes I would say Jewish, other times Catholic. Usually I would say the opposite of what everyone else was because I wanted to be unique. Sometimes, I would just say, “I’m half Catholic and half Jewish.” But I always knew you could not be half of a religion. Some years, my family would celebrate Hanukkah; some years, my family would celebrate Christmas. It was confusing for me to know which holiday was mine. What holiday traditions would I continue on with my children later in life? I had none.

After years of maintaining this empty place inside of me, I had a revelation. Although I cannot write essays about my family’s decent, and I cannot relate to my friends who are going to church every Sunday, or fasting for whatever holiday it is in their household, I can do something they all cannot. I can believe whatever I want to believe without opposition from my family, and I can say I am a true American because that is where I am from and that is the country I am most proud of. The bond I share with my family is stronger than any I see within other families. Maybe this is because we have nothing to fight about when it comes down to the thing that is most important in some people’s lives. What is most important to us is difficult to argue about, and that is laughing and loving as much as we can. We allow our conscience to be our guide in life, as opposed to a Bible. And when we need somewhere to go to be with our family, we do not have to travel overseas. Instead, we just go to our house. I believe religion and culture are important in many people’s lives. But in my life, I believe the most important thing is to have any origin to go back to, even if that origin is right at home.