The Former Columbus Day

The holiday blends in my mind to unmentionable days that were never important enough to hold my attention. They were a day off from school, the first break into the new year, and that first moment to realize Halloween was near. I know when I was particularly young, we learned about Christopher Columbus along with that famous rhyme. We made artwork and hung it proudly in the school hallway, but our lessons and obsession with Columbus faltered and faded after those early years.

As an Italian American living in New York, we would watch the Columbus Day parade and all of the various Italian groups passing through New York City and across my tv screen. But what outside of that? I don’t recall. It was a time where the holiday was focused on the name, and less thought was placed on what Columbus actually did.

But one of these holidays stands out particularly in my mind. It was the start of a new phase in my life, freshman year where childhood was still close enough to taste while I tried so hard to be an adult. But I woke that Monday when school was out, looked out my bedroom window, and found the colored leaves and dying grass with a covering of powdered sugar.

It had snowed. The earliest snow in my memory.

I don’t recall if that year was a significantly cold or snowy one. Even on that day, the snow melted upon the sun fully rising, the early snow too weak to handle its stronger rays, but I still felt that jolt of excitement when I saw the snow on the ground and sadness as it began to melt away.

With the holiday approaching, I always think of that snowy day and with some regret, the artwork we did in school. It’s interesting to consider the world as a whole and how education (not of the school sort, but of the worldly, eyes-wide-open sort) and experience alters perception.

Growing up, I only knew the facts of my surroundings and my surroundings were quite consistent. I was never taught what the true difference between Republican or Democrat was, I never understood conservative versus liberal. The culture around me enforced a conservative mentality and I didn’t realize it, not until I was out of college with social media and the internet at my fingertips. I discovered other cultures, other cities, other places that thought differently. I learned of experiences I never had the opportunity to encounter in my small hometown. I chose to focus, with an obsessive passion, on Native American history. I soaked up experiences like a sponge. They weren’t my own, but I understood different opinions, I discovered different politics.

I realized that all of my political opinions since childhood had not been my own, but a product of the land I grew up in, of those around me. It was similar with Columbus Day. This day that was focused with a heavy obsession, that many would claim “don’t take this holiday from us” and I understood to an extent, it was the day of Italian pride. But what pride can be found in the destruction this man wrought? I realized my own Italian pride could be presented in better representations: Sunday dinner, specific meals for specific holidays, common themes that were found from family to family.

Perhaps my enchantment with what was taught to me began to wobble when I focused more on the snow of that October Monday than the parade and the obsession of the explorer. Perhaps it was the first step towards realizing there was more than the focus given to me by my surroundings. Perhaps as I stepped away from childhood, I had the freedom of my own conclusions.

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