|Marc Chagall's "Exodus"|
German was their default language at home. My mom’s English had a slight Germanic tone and was littered with poor grammar. My grandparents spoke with thick accents. Their English vocabulary was very limited, and they frequently strung English words together in what I recognized as German syntax.
My mother had finished the Austrian equivalent of technical high school. Neither of my grandparents had completed elementary school. Each of them held jobs that earned hourly wages.
While I was in my teens, and even into early adulthood, I was embarrassed by them. At least, that’s how I understood it at the time.
In the Deep South, we get to know you by asking, “Who are your people?” It seemed to me that all my peers had professional parents with college educations. Their people made them somebody. In my young mind, my people made me an outsider and placed me at the bottom of any ladder I might hope to climb.
I figured that if I were going to be somebody worthy of respect and affection, I would have to get there through my own achievements in school and on the athletic field and then later in my career.