Have I ever mentioned how I carried the entire United States of America on my shoulders when I was only ten years old? Well, I did, or at least I was convinced I did.
As we prepared that spring of 1967 for our move to Cheltenham, England, Dad explained very carefully to his brood of six, “Everything you say and do, while in a foreign country will be judged to be that of the ‘typical American.’ You represent your country when you are on foreign soil and I trust that you will represent it well.” (or something along those lines)
Well, that’s pretty heavy stuff for a ten year old. Even my big sister, at eleven, was not strong enough to carry that weight -- how could I?
Well, I started off very carefully. My first order of business was to “learn the language” so as not to STAND OUT as a “stupid American.” Let’s just say I made a few mistakes in achieving this goal. But, within just a couple of months, nobody was asking if I was American any longer. They thought I might be Irish…LOL (sorry to the Irish).
Nevertheless, every time I broke a school rule, I knew I was not only letting my school down and my family down…I was also letting my entire country down. I suppose I broke fewer rules than I might have, had I not been weighted with this burden.
All in all, I cannot say I minded my parents’ expectation. I suppose it is like going to visit friends in their home. You are expected to behave just a bit better than you might in you own home. And, if you are the kid who misbehaves at others’ houses, the implication always falls back to your parents….they must not have raised you right. So, I thank my father for making sure I understood the ramifications of my actions, and I want to publicly apologize to all Americans for the misrepresentation I made of the ‘typical American’ during those years I lived in England.