A hybrid American says ‘happy birthday’

Karl Teel

I’m a hybrid American celebrating the Fourth of July and our nation’s birthday. Hybrid American — what’s that?

Like everyone else, my lineage falls under two paths: one from my mother’s side, and one from my father’s.

One my mother’s side, we descend from the Mayflower soldier, the fiery-tempered, redheaded Miles Standish, who came on board to protect the Pilgrims in the brave new world almost 400 years ago. While not a Native American, that’s certainly a long time by U.S. standards.

On my father’s side, I am first-generation American, as was 18 percent of the population the year I was born and 14 percent of the population today.

So, I’m a hybrid: one-half really old roots, one-half relatively new. And, each of these branches has a unique reason to love this country.

Certainly, there is nostalgia, heritage, and deep roots (as well as some bragging rights) to the Mayflower side. Most of that wing of the family still resides in appropriately named New England. I think Thanksgiving even has a little more meaning to me as a result of this lineage. I feel as “pure” and American as can be.

On my father’s side, first-generation American makes me “pure” American, too, living the ideal and principles this country was founded on. Opportunity brought my father’s family here as refugees seeking a better life. They came, worked hard, planted new roots, and raised a new generation here — the American dream in its purest sense. My grandmother never really learned English, and my father, up to his death, spoke with a thick accent, but loved this country. Even 50 years later, as his native Estonia regained its freedom, he had no desire to return to it.

Birthdays are often a time to reflect and take stock. In July, as we celebrate the birthday of our country, I reflect upon my heritage and what America means to me.

My story is no different than so many others and, at the same time, unique, just like our nation. We vary in so many ways: mountains vs. plains vs. seashore; urban vs. metropolitan vs. suburban vs. rural; traditional vs. contemporary. We vary by region: New England, the deep South, the Rust Belt, the farm belt, the mountains, the Pacific Northwest, the southern California area, and the Mid-Atlantic.

You don’t have to go that far to see the variety.

You can see farms in virtually every area of our region, the mountains that marked the early frontier, and the urban adventures in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Wilmington, and Richmond. They’re all within a short drive.

Personally, I’ve been to 40 of the states, and no doubt will hit the other 10 in due time. I enjoy it all, from a cutting-edge New York City vibe to Glacier National Park’s peaceful unspoiled beauty, and everything in between. I love the people I meet along the way. I love this country and want to see it all. Don’t you? We are here to help. Happy birthday, America!


On our cover

The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, in Tioga County, features forested hillsides and the Pine Creek Rail Trail along its floor. (Tioga Co. Tourism)


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