My Diverse Family

   I grew up in a tiny little town, so tiny in fact, that my “town” was considered a village. With a population of only 1,344, I can safely assume I knew almost everyone around me.

   Now, let’s talk about diversity. How much diversity do you think there is in a “village” in Southern Ohio, with that small of a population?

   You guessed it, next to none. We had a very small amount of people who weren’t white. I realized this at a very early age. It confused me, but I accepted it as normal.

   As I got older and gained more freedom and responsibility, I traveled outside of my town and was faced with so much more beauty and diversity. Growing up, I never really thought about the diversity I had within my own family, it never crossed my mind.

   My grandfather’s father was from Peru, this was something he was extremely proud of. He would tell us all about South America, and he would show us pictures and trinkets he had collected from there.

   I would tell classmates at school of my Peruvian meals crafted by my grandfather, tongue tacos, ceviche and homemade salsa. My friends labeled it strange, but I never thought anything of it.

   My grandfather wouldn’t speak entirely in Spanish, but he would throw in some Spanish words here and there. If my sister and I were talking instead of eating our warm, fresh dinner, my grandpa would say “Ah! Comer!” which in Spanish means “eat.”

   We may not be Spanish speakers (my sister and I), but we knew exactly what he meant every time he said it!

   We would often sit outside during the summer and fall months on our porch swing to watch for hummingbirds. As we laid our heads on our grandparents’ laps, watching the sky change from a light blue to a deep purple, we would ask our grandpa how to say things in Spanish.

   We would ask how to say “mom,” “grandma,” “grandpa,” “birds” really anything and everything. He would always smile brightly and give us the Spanish translations.

   We would always ask how to say our names in Spanish, which my grandpa would chuckle at and try his best to explain that our names are our names, and they don’t translate!

   I would talk about my African-American uncle, my uncle Peach, to my friends at school. I would never mention his skin color because it really wasn’t something that I recognized.

   Sure, he was a different color than me, but why did that matter? He was my favorite uncle; his skin color was what it was, and it really didn’t seem that outrageous to me. I only learned it was “different” when a few friends came over and met my uncle, they were “shocked” (not in a negative way) to find out my uncle wasn’t white like me!

   My uncle Peach was the sweetest man you could ever hope to meet. He was a D.J., a vocalist and he even had his own band called Gem City Platinum!

   If you ever were to ask him “Why does everyone call you ‘Peach?’”,” he would respond with, “Because I was born even whiter than you!” The real reason was because he had a birthmark in the shape of a peach! He was always ready to give sadness curing bear hugs and hilarious stories.

   Just being in his presence made you feel so much love and happiness. Every year on my birthday he would call and sing me happy birthday.

   My last memory of him is of a phone call we shared at my graduation party. He told me he loved me and that he was sorry he couldn’t make it because of a gig his band had, but he was so very proud of me.

   He sadly passed away this month, but he will forever be in my heart and in my thoughts daily. I love you uncle Peach, thank you for the great memories.

   He introduced my mom to soul music when she was young, a love she then passed on to me. My mom often tells me cute “throwback” stories of summers she spent with my Uncle Peach.

   She would bring up funny stories that I would always run back and interrogate my goofy uncle about. He would always stare down at me and laugh.

   I have many other family members with different ethnicities and different cultural perspectives than my own but writing out the entire list would take an excruciating amount of time.

   The moral of my little story is that diversity is beautiful and having it within your own family is a true one of a kind experience. The diversity within my family, and within this country, is what makes America so great.

Shaeli Spurlock

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