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Boots and Heritage

I often write about Australia but tonight I thought I would share some fun thoughts I have had about my heritage and growing up in Louisiana. My father was native to Louisiana and grew up in the southwestern part of the state known as Acadiana. His childhood was in Jefferson Davis Parish and he went to USL which is in Lafayette, Louisiana. I take pride in having Cajun in my bloodline but I also have another boot place in my heritage.Map of LA Parishes

My mother’s father immigrated from Naples, Italy at the age of 9 through Ellis Island. I find it quite amazing that my father who was born a sharecropper’s son was born in a state that looks like a work boot.

My mother’s father was born in a country that looks like a lady’s boot.

I was given the name Dianna because my dad didn’t like the name Johanna and didn’t want me named Alanna because he thought his brother-in-law Alan would think I was named after him. My mom tried to name me after her sister Anna and I loved the thought of Alanna because I would have been named after my mom and her sister. Dad was still adamant I would not be named Alanna. My middle name is Louise and that is supposedly after my grandfather on my dad’s side (John Louis) but Alan’s wife, Louise is my dad’s sister. I really loved Aunt Louise but I am supposedly named after my grandfather. I had asked my mom about this long ago when I was a child. I know she always tried to name her children after family members or some sort of variant of it because it was her family tradition to do.

Every time people notice my accent, they often wonder where I am from. When I explain Louisiana, they automatically think of New Orleans. I have to explain that I grew up on the west-central side of Louisiana. It’s known as the Crossroads. The parish I was raised in for the majority of my childhood was Vernon Parish. Louisiana isn’t a very large state in comparison to Texas, California, or Alaska but it is very distinct in its own right. It has 5 distinct areas to it. The northern part of the state is predominantly protestant and the southern part is predominantly Roman Catholic. I could do several blogs about the different things in Louisiana but I grew up in the Crossroads. I always feel a special closeness to Acadiana. We would visit Aunt Dolly and Pawpaw who lived in Jefferson Davis Parish. It was about an hour and half drive. The accents also vary in Louisiana according to where you lived the most. My dad’s Cajun accent wasn’t very prominent until he was with his family. People who live in the Greater New Orleans area sound different from people from the northern area of the state.

Every time I look at boots,I am reminded of my heritage both on my mother’s side and my father’s side. I like the idea and find it quite funny. Do you have any fun facts about your heritage that you would like to share? 

Here is a link to learn more about the different facets of Louisiana.

My Heritage: A Hodge Podge Of Cultural Melting Pot

Today’s blog is going to be a bit all over the place but I hope to make my connections in the end which you may understand and if you don’t please leave a comment and I will try to clarify for you if I can.

I’ve been wanting to share this story for a while now but wasn’t sure how to do it. My story is not really that unique but for me, it does form me into who I am. I am quite proud of my heritage but at times, I  feel as if I have missed out on a few things. I can’t compare it to  the stolen generation of Aboriginal Australia but when I hear the stories that they share. I can feel a kinship to it because in some  ways, I have lost parts of my own heritage though I wasn’t ripped from my family in the way they were. The Aboriginal language is said to be  dying and I can say that the Cajun French my father spoke growing up is sort of dying as well. The University of Louisiana Lafayette is  teaching Cajun French now. I never took the course but to me Cajun French is a living language. The aborigines of Australia have a rich  oral history but because the stolen generation was stripped from their  families they have lost quite a bit of it. It’s hard to write down a history when it has been robbed from you or denied to you since it was deemed not worthy of knowing. When my father was growing up, he was  not allowed to speak the language of his birth in school. He spoke it when visiting his family but he didn’t teach it to his children.

I know more about my father’s side of my family mostly due to the fact  that is where they decided to settle once he retired from the Army. Both of my mother’s parents were deceased by
the time I was born. My  father’s parents were still living in Louisiana when he was stationed  at Ft Polk or at least my Paw Paw was. I think Me Maw died right before or right after we moved to Louisiana. I was only about 3 when  she died. I do know a little bit about my mom’s father and mother. Her father immigrated from Naples, Italy when he was 9. My mom’s mother  was born from Irish American stock. My mom spoke very little of her upbringing.

Dad’s sister, Dolly would come up and help us slaughter pigs or we  would drive down to visit PaPa and Aunt Dolly who lived about an  hour’s drive south-west of us near Hathaway.
We might go down for a  cousin’s wedding. Oh, the fun we’d have watching our parents dance or dancing with each other.

One of my dad’s favorite recording artists was Doug Kershaw. My father  said that Doug was a cousin. I am not sure if this is actual fact but  one of my fondest memories of my dad is him singing “Louisiana Saturday Night” or “Jole Blon” or “Louisiana Man”. Jole Blon was  definitely Dad’s all time favorite.

Certain things bring back memories to me. Just as the Boab tree in Western Australia moves me. Looking at Bald Cypress trees in the Atchafalaya Basin can move me especially if a great white egret is perched on or near it. I am not sure why but I have always loved Southwestern Louisiana. I know it’s partly to do with my father’s heritage. I know when we would drive down to Lafayette my heart would always skip a beat when I spotted the spanish moss strewn cypress trees. I am really thankful that we got to take a swamp tour with Judy and Margaret back in 2006. I am not sure if it holds good memories for them but it sure did bring up some nice ones for me.
I took Adam down to look at Vermillionville when he came to meet me  for something to do as well as try to let him get an idea about my heritage on my father’s side. I learned more myself with that visit.  If you are ever in Lafayette, Louisiana, I highly recommend spending  some time exploring the venue. I know if I get to return back to  Louisiana, I would go again if I can fit it into my schedule.

It sort of baffles me how humanity can keep making the same mistakes when it comes to prejudices. I have come across bigotry and prejudices while growing up on my father’s side of the family. I look also how people who believe in God can look down on other believers because  they don’t use the same rituals to praise Him. I am not sure why some  people believe they are better than some one else because of skin  colour or religious belief. I have seen it occur in films which were  made all over the world. It occured in my own ancestory. It has happened in Australia with natives being taken away from their  families for the greater good. Children who should have been with  their families were taken to be taught how to serve or be educated to  be better. These people survived thousands of years before white men  came along and decided that they were the savages. When I look at it,  I can see who the real savages were.

It’s not just the white people though who have this twisted sense of  righteousness. I know of people who look down at their fellow countrymen because of their religious belief or because they were not born on the right side of the track. Lies can be told a thousand  different ways but the truth can be only told only one way. In my heart, I feel as if we are suppose to live with tolerance. I strive to  honour our differences and learn to respect others beliefs even if they aren’t my own. Money doesn’t make you a better person or  education can not make you a better person if you can’t discern the  truth from what you are being taught. Blind acceptance of things will  not protect you but shedding light on situations will help you find  the truth of what is being told.

The pieces of information I get from my heritage have helped form me.  I walk with the knowledge of where I come from in hope of spreading  love and tolerance to others that I touch in my lifetime.