Pride in Heritage

My American-born father met my German-born mother while he was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany. My parents married, had me and moved to the U.S. to build their family. My dad worked a lot when I was young, so being the firstborn child of an immigrant mother in small-town Iowa often was—for lack of a better term—exhausting. I had to introduce her to everything American, when I was learning myself!

For example, I had to explain extracurricular activities (there isn’t volleyball in Germany) and social events (prom was a doozy). I also learned quickly—thanks to endless teasing—to keep what made me “different” as much of a secret as possible from my friends. I hid the clothes my European grandparents sent because my classmates just weren’t wearing the same styles. I begged my mother to cook “American” foods—burgers and pizza only—when friends came for sleepovers. I never spoke about traditions my mother carried on in our household. Meanwhile, I always wondered why my peers—many of whom were of German descent themselves—didn’t have a clue about any of the customs my family practiced.

Americans aren’t always good at appreciating and preserving their heritage, even when it comes to buildings. Building the most innovative, technologically modern structure almost always took precedence over preservation. The Great Recession seems to have changed that mindset by forcing building owners/facility managers to upgrade existing buildings rather than build new. In this issue of Roofing, we celebrate the historic buildings that tell the story of bygone eras and the existing buildings that have shaped our nation into what it is today. The issue’s articles underscore how contemporary roofing materials can help preserve these structures’ roofs (see “Tech Point”, for example) and artistry that made a particular roof the focal point of its community (see the other “Tech Point”).

I’m happy to say as an adult I embrace my heritage and all the things my mother taught me. In fact, I’m bringing German influences into my own home. My husband Bart is half German, but, before he met me, he knew nothing about Germany. During our honeymoon, we spent some time in Germany, and, today, you can often find Bart using the few German words I’ve taught him in normal conversation (especially with my mother). In fact, he has embraced the culture so much that when he and his business partner discussed how to celebrate Oktoberfest at the bar they own, Bart suggested my mom prepare an authentic German meal for the bar’s patrons. The young me would’ve been mortified by this idea, but these days I’m proud to share a bit of Germany with my friends and neighbors (who predominately are of German heritage themselves). And I’m grateful my husband feels the same.