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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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In this family, I am a foreign country [20150202|16:46]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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[the weather today is |tired]

Yesterday, Humuhumu came to me with her gloves in her hand and said solemnly, "Mama, I can't do it." She likes to put all her clothes on herself, but gloves are difficult. She tries, but she can't do it.

The way she pronounced "can't" (KAH-nt) gave me a sudden, very sharp pang of alienation. It's a sensation to which I've become unaccustomed, embedded as I am into life in the UK. It brought home that my daughter doesn't sound like me. Not only that, she never will. She'll grow up with a British accent - what flavour is still to be determined, as she hears Brummie and Black Country at nursery, but academic British and American at home. Both my children won't sound like me. Maybe one day they'll be even embarrassed by their mum's American accent. It was unexpectedly painful to know that no matter how British I become in my habits and my tastes, as soon as I open my mouth I'm instantly identifiable as non-native, and I'll be the only one in our little family to be so.

There's a passage at the end of the last story in Zen Cho's Spirits Abroad that resonates particularly with me.

Past a certain point, you stop being able to go home. At this point, when you have got this far from where you were from, the thread snaps. The narrative breaks. And you are forced, pastless, motherless, selfless, to invent yourself anew.

Despite striving to reinvent myself over the past decade, I know that my expression of Britishness is always identifiably tinged with foreignness, and I don't just mean my accent. It's always a little jarring to be reminded that integration is not a process that is ever finished, or that can truly be perfected. I want my children to be as well integrated as possible into the culture they'll have to spend the majority of their time in. It will be effortless and natural for them. I don't want them to have American accents. But since they already seem to have so little of me in their outward appearances, apart from dark eyes and in Humuhumu's case, an outrageous fringe of pitch-black eyelashes, it hurts a little to watch them do with ease what I have to practise consciously. And to know that this difference between us is permanent.

This entry was originally posted at http://nanila.dreamwidth.org/961860.html. The titration count is at comment count unavailable.0 pKa.

From: cmcmck
2015-02-02 17:16 (UTC)
Although I was brought up in the southern UK with it's long 'a' in words like castle and bath I have a northeastern inflected accent with the short 'a' in those words. I blame my grandma. :o)

One of my neighbours has the same issue- she comes originally from Oregon and her kids sound nothing like her.

This is a nation of immigrants- you know my own background.

You'll always be mum (or should I say mom) to your kids!

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2015-02-12 16:00 (UTC)
This is a nation of immigrants

It would be nice to know that more than a few of us remember that, given the virulence of the hostility toward immigrants that's getting so much press. :/
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From: cmcmck
2015-02-12 16:11 (UTC)
Believe me, I push the thought regularly when I hear garbage being spoken about immigrants. I'm the descendent of Latvian Jewish, Breton and Italian migrants myself after all!
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[User Picture]From: saltdawg
2015-02-02 20:08 (UTC)
I don't think they'll even notice until they are old enough to think it's cool. And even then, I'll bet you someone else points it out to them.
My friend's son is seven(?) and doesn't seem to realize that his mamma isn't black.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2015-02-12 15:58 (UTC)
This reminds me that I never knew my dad had an accent until I was in high school and someone noticed it. And even then I denied it strenuously until after I'd been away from home for a week or so. I came back and went, "...Oh."
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[User Picture]From: mysterysquid
2015-02-03 11:09 (UTC)
Must be a strange sensation. :S

And I think kids always find SOMETHING embarrassing about their parents. ;)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2015-02-12 10:03 (UTC)
It is weird.

I can't imagine what they might find embarrassing about their nerdy scientist parents. :P
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[User Picture]From: pax_athena
2015-02-03 17:07 (UTC)

I don't have children, but this part

Despite striving to reinvent myself over the past decade, I know that my expression of Britishness is always identifiably tinged with foreignness, and I don't just mean my accent.

-- oh, this hits close to home and hurts to much ... There never will be a moment when people don't hear that I am different, that I do not fully belong, no matter which language ...
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2015-02-12 16:03 (UTC)
*hugs back*

It's frustrating and saddening when you get these reminders that you'll never blend quite perfectly no matter how good you get at it. It's always a simulation. *sigh*
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