Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Paris

From Paris to Sterling Heights

Last Tuesday, I was visited by three people who were so French, they caused my mind to wander to and linger in Paris. This Tuesday, my mind has returned home, so I will write about my hometown of 20 years, Sterling Heights, the fourth largest city in Michigan.

A little over sixty years ago Sterling Heights was a rural Michigan township with a population of 4,000. It was organized in 1835, two years before Michigan became a state, and it was originally called JeffersonTownship. The name was changed to Sterling in 1838. Some say the community was named for Azariah W. Sterling, a settler; others say it was named for Sterling, New York. By the 1880s, the township had become thirty-six square miles of well-developed and prosperous farms, with a mere 1,000 residents. Today the population is nearly 130,000.

Prior to 1784 there is little written history about the area that is now Sterling Heights because the Indian tribes who lived in villages along the ClintonRiver or came through here on hunting expeditions did not keep written records. The first white settlers along the Clinton were captives of the Chippewas who had been freed or escaped after years of wandering with the tribes.

Sterling Heights was ranked the sixth safest city in the U.S. in 2006 and currently boasts more movie screens than any other Michigan City.The August 2006 issue of Money magazine listed Sterling Heights as No. 19 on its list of the 90 “Best Small Cities” to live in.

Another attraction? Eminem lived here briefly between 2000 and 2001. And a phenomenon? After twenty years of living in this city and over ten years of living in nearby neighborhoods, I can still screw up directions to get to certain places.

My Unexpected French Guests

France

I was working on my book when I received a call from a friend attorney. She said there were French reporters/filmmakers doing a documentary entitled “My Beloved Enemy” about Iraqi Americans. They were looking for Warina Zaya Bashou, who at 111 years old became the second oldest person to be granted a US citizenship. I’d interviewed Warina and wrote an article about her last year. Unfortunately, Warina passed away a few months ago.

My friend asked permission to give the French team my phone number and the next thing I knew I had three beautiful and gracious French people at my door – an attractive blonde woman and two tall and dark handsome men. With the presence of my mother and my children, we ended up having a little brunch together and learning much from each other. And my mom was interviewed about her experience in attaining her citizenship in 1997, which was a tremendous accomplishment for her – never having gone to school.

As we interacted, I couldn’t help but think about the words of my Native American teacher. “If you stay long enough in one place the whole world will pass by.”

My love for France started in 1999. I was visiting London with a friend when she and I decided to hop over to Paris for a day. Yes, a day! Who does that? People were known to pack up and move to France permanently and we expected to get our heart’s full in a day?

The moment we landed in Paris, we loved it. The city was so alive that I was determined to return and stay a lot longer. That didn’t happen so instead, I tried to swap the experience with movies and books. I bought a copy of “Julie and Julia” two years ago and watched it umpteen times. I watched “Midnight in Paris” in the movie theater and then repeatedly after it was on DVD. If you go in my car right now, you’ll find a CD audio book of “My Life in Paris” by Julia Child. If you look in my purse, you’ll see on the cover of my planner the photo of the EiffelTower.

While I’m certain one day I’ll revisit France, I’m very happy that today it visited me.

http://www.mybelovedenemy.com/