My Cultural Autobiography
Sir Frances Bacon said, “If a man be gracious to strangers, it shows that he is a citizen of the world, and his heart is no island cut off from other islands, but a continent that joins them,” (Jenkins, 1994). This quote represents all the core values that I cherish and to which I adhere. Personal culture doesn’t have to be linked to a certain country of origin or a specific ethnicity; it can be as simple as a person’s core values. The Southern way of life is a culture all in itself. Growing up south of the Mason-Dixon Line in the United States has instilled in me many values including honesty, integrity and a genuine concern for my fellow man. Most of these values I do not remember ever being told or consciously being taught. It is just a way of life for us Southerners. I must have learned them by example, especially my mom’s. Martha Ann, my mother, was a very formidable woman with the generosity of a saint. She died when I was just 22, but she had already taught me to share whatever I had with anyone less fortunate. I remember her saying, “There is always someone worse off than you.” That one phrase has not only taught me to be thankful for what I have, it also taught me to remember those who are in need.
When I was just six, my parents bought the restaurant that my mother had been working at as a waitress. The previous owners were getting very old and did not want to put their employees out of work by closing it, so my parents stepped up. My father had a full time civil service job so my mother handled most of the business and managing affairs. My father would also help out every evening after coming home from his day job. We all spent most of our waking hours downstairs helping. We even lived in the apartments upstairs. My two brothers, my parents and myself all managed to live somewhat peacefully in just those three rooms. I remember being sort of the mascot for the place. My mom would have me serve cups of coffee, not full of course, to tables of customers to show off my up and coming waitress skills at the mere age of eight.
I started taking full shifts and being paid as other employees at twelve. I even began buying my own school clothes that fall. I saved my tips and announced to my mother that I wanted to buy them myself so I could pick out what I wanted. She was a little put out that I did not like her styles of clothes, but in that southern way, she asked if she could at least help me decide what I purchased. I then realized how very much I cherished her opinion and I think she realized I would indeed have a mind of my own. Even though it was so many years ago, I still cherish that particular shopping trip with my mom the most, although there were many more to come.
Some of my fondest memories of time spent with my mom were our shopping trips together. She would send me to the cash register to get some money and we were off on our adventure. We always shopped for shoes, and we would always stop to eat. One day my mom wanted to try a new restaurant. This was my first experience with food from another land. It was a Chinese restaurant. The hostess could hardly speak or understand English, but Mom still managed to communicate. After that visit, it became “our place.” Over time, my mom became friendly with the owners. They even began calling her by her first name. I loved how exciting it was to dip into another way of life. My mom was always willing to try a new dish there. I never realized until now how unusual that was back then.
I now have carried that tradition on, unknowingly, with my kids. My son and I have a restaurant that we call “our place.” It just happens to be a sushi restaurant. We both like to go there and sample different things. I think we chose that as our place because not many others are as adventurous about food as we are. As for my daughter and I, we have...