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Reflections – Heritage

April 19, 2012 by · No comments

by Jonathan C. Beck

Jon Beck
Photo: Jonathan C. Beck

What does one do when internet isn’t available? I know what I used to do. I would read books, hang out with friends, color, draw, watch TV and movies. I could still draw, but those other things aren’t readily available to me at the moment. I will be meeting some people shortly, so certainly I won’t just sit here all night. But to pass the time, I opened my computer and opened up the Pictures folder.

I didn’t know what I was looking for. Maybe a piece of home. But I started making my way through my odd maze of folders to see if there was anything interesting. What I found was a folder entitled “heritage” from my senior year of high school, when I took a photography class. The project was to photograph those things with which we identified our heritage.

So what did I choose?

A sand painting my Oma gave me. A sailboat with a Bible verse engraved on its sail. The Catholic Living Bible. An empty bottle of Beck’s beer.

It’s funny that I should have chosen to photograph these things, when so many things could represent my Herkunft. But each is very special to me for different reasons (with one exception).

The fact that my Oma gave me the sand painting is reason enough that I should consider it important. The painting depicts a Native American riding a horse, holding a spear and crying to the night’s stars. On my mother’s side we have Native American relatives. My Oma, my father’s mother, gifted me many things that had something to do with Native American culture when I was younger, as I was so very interested in it.

The sailboat was a gift from my parents for my Confirmation. The verse: “Choose for yourself this day Whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 At the time of my Confirmation, I was considering some day entering the seminary to become a Pastor in the Lutheran Church. Although those days are now long behind me, that little ship and that verse remain close to my heart. All the better that it came from my parents.

Why should I have chosen The Catholic Living Bible of all Bibles? Especially when I really grew up in a Lutheran Church? The Bible belonged once to my Grandma, my mother’s mother. She passed away when I was still very young, but I remember her very fondly. I remember watching Disney movies on her small brown couch while she sat in her rocking chair. I would make my way over to her chair to climb into her lap, where I felt so comfortable. My Grandpa always liked (still does, I’m sure) to eat cheese popcorn, and sometimes I would get a bowl to eat while watching those movies.

“Grandma, can I have more cheese popcorn?”

“You’ll have to go ask Grandpa,” she’d say in her loving, comforting voice. I’d inch my way over to my Grandpa’s chair, holding my bowl out and asking for more popcorn. Of course he wasn’t going to say no and was always happy to share.

She grew up in a protestant church, but when she married my Grandpa she converted to Catholicism. They remained together until she passed away. For this reason I hold happily on to her Bible.

And finally the empty bottle of Beck’s beer. This one is funny to me. My reasoning is obvious: my last name is Beck. But why an empty bottle of beer? And what possibly could my teacher have thought when I presented that as part of my heritage? Still, while the object itself isn’t important and is now, I’m sure, nothing more than glass dust in some garbage pile, it’s funny that I should have chosen it. Perhaps that bottle of beer was to represent my German heritage?

And here I am, today, in the small city of Eichstätt, Germany, where I’m studying for the semester. My heritage of course remains always with me, but while I experience firsthand one part of my family’s storied history, it’s nice to look back and think. To think about who I was, who I am, where I come from and where I’m going.

This post originally appeared in Jon Beck’s blog

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