I grew up in a truly American household, a blending of cultures, faiths, and heritage.

I grew up in a truly American household, a blending of cultures, faiths, and heritage.
Our nation has been called 'a melting pot' and it is indeed. As I've often said, I was the child who drew close to listen to the elders talk about the past, the one who heard the stories handed down over generations. Family history has been a fascination for me from an early age and I always have been proud of the variety in my family tree. Some might call me a mutt, rather than a pure bred but I celebrate the multi-cultural make-up of my DNA.
I can quote old-fashioned Southern folk sayings or say my prayers in Latin. I speak German passably well, intrigued enough with the few words and phrases that lingered through the generations to study the language in both high school and college. I like to think I speak a little Gaelic and I can sing a few songs in that old tongue as well.  And, I know a few prayers in Hebrew as well.
I am Catholic and my faith is very important to me. It defines some of who and what I am. In my family tree, there are some other faiths, some Church of England, some Baptist, a touch of Huguenot, and probably a little pagan.
But I also have a Jewish heritage, one I value and will never forget or deny.
In a small German village in the mid-19th century, a Catholic woman named Sophia Diemar married Anton Sontheimer who was Jewish. They are my great-great grandparents. Each of their children, including my great-grandfather Reinhard, who came to America with his younger brother, was baptized in the Catholic Church. But, because being Jewish is more than a religion, it's a heritage and is often called a race, their children were somehow both.
Such mixed marriages, as they were once called, were not that uncommon. In one of my historical Patrice Wayne novels, "Bette's Soldier", the hero is a practicing Catholic with a Jewish father. When a reader questioned the plausibility of Ben Levy's heritage, I responded with facts - that my own family descended from such a union.
Akavya ben Mahalalel, a renown Jewish teacher of the first or second century who was considered very wise once wrote, "Know from where you come and where you are going."
From a young age, I was taught a paraphrased version of his wisdom - you must know where you have been before you can know where you are going.
Learning about the Holocaust was always difficult for me because I was aware of my heritage. Family stories handed down said that after World War II, my great-grandfather searched survivors without success although I have learned there were a scant few. As an adult, I discovered confirmation for the stories I had heard, on a website called Yad Vashem. The name, in Hebrew, means a lasting monument and there I found that my relatives died at Therienstadt, one of the concentration camps.
In my life and in my writing, I follow those wise words penned centuries ago.  I know from where I - or my characters - come and where I - or they - are going.
Sometimes knowing from where and from who I come is easier than knowing where my life is heading but the certainty of the knowledge gives me a foundation and a home base.
I use the past to find my way through the present and into the future, for my life and in all I write, from fiction to a news story.

Lee Ann Murphy writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.