It’s not always easy to figure out that you are not normative. If you grow up in an ethnic enclave, when you’re young you probably think everyone is black/Spanish-speaking/Korean. When I was a little kid one of my parents’ friends remarried. I remarked on how the new wife was Jewish. My mom corrected me.
“But Mom, she talks Jewish.”
“No, honey, she’s just from New Jersey.”
If you’re visibly different from the majority, or you speak a language other than English, you learn pretty quickly what “normal” is supposed to be—and it’s not you. My daughter has grown up in an area of mixed ethnicity, with the majority of our neighbors being white and Christian, but she is around other Jewish families a lot. She understands that there are “Channukah people” and “Christmas people”. When we were at the hospital last week I showed her the big tree and all the decorations. She said, “Daddy, where is the Channukah suff?”
I’d never really thought about it. I’ve known for a long time that ethnically (and politically) I’m a minority. I looked around the first floor of the hospital and found a small Channukah menorah in a cabinet in one of the side hallways.
I’ve long since figured out how to respond to the constant litany of “Merry Christmas” and the uncomfortable looks of people who start to say it an pause. For her, it’s all new. I wonder how she’s going to integrate all of this.