Who Are We?
by Margaret Watson
I don’t know about you, but I get a little confused at times as to who exactly I am and even what to call myself. It depends upon the circumstances and who I am with to some extent: In a shop I may be ‘Madam’ or ‘Love’. In other parts of the country it might be ‘Duck’, ‘Pet’, ‘Luvva’ or ‘Hen’ At home I can be Margaret, Maggie, or Mom. Elsewhere I might be Mrs Watson or John’s wife, Jo’s Mom, Brenda’s sister or even occasionally myself. I have been identified as Alf’s daughter, Lizzie’s niece, Eric’s cousin – I could go on. I am a wife and mother, a daughter, sister, cousin, neighbour. I am a cook, a midwife, a gardener, a writer, a preacher, the lady at number 60 and a woman. Sometimes I take on several of these roles in one day and even more than one at once.
Even the language I use can vary. In the past I have been mistaken for Irish, Indian ( I did have a sun tan and was speaking Urdu at the time) German, Belgian and last month for French.
I was recently working alongside an Italian, who I mistakenly thought was Greek. She congratulated me on the way I spoke English, and then realised that I was English. I agreed with her – It was easier than trying to explain, and I was born west of Offa’s Dyke which makes me English and south of Hadrian’s wall.
But am I? I have a nephew who was born in England because that is where his mother was at the time. Would being born in a garage make him a car?
His first language is Welsh, but he also speaks fluently in English, Flemish, German, Italian, French, Spanish and Dutch. Like many people in these islands our ancestry is quite mixed. There is a hint of Spanish and definitely some Breton in there somewhere. Someone recently told me I looked Welsh, which I do and I was bought up in a bi-lingual household, but the people over the garden wall talked to me in Italian and the local shopkeeper spoke English with such a strong accent it took you 5 minutes to realise that he wasn’t speaking Welsh.
But on the other side of the family I have a Swedish great grandmother and ancestors from the Fair Isles. My grandfather was born in central England and so was my mother. My husband on the other hand was born on the east coast, my older daughter near the Welsh border and the younger one in Essex, which is in south east England. I have lived in Ulster, Eire, Scotland and Pakistan. Various members of the family have worked in India, Burma, Malawi, Gambia and Namibia. I have relatives in Spain, America and France.
None of this really matters until it comes to a cup final or the Olympics. Which team do I support? Mine of course, the one that is winning – as soon as I’ve sorted out which one that is and which language to yell encouragement in.
Last night I watched the film ’My Great Big Greek Wedding’. It is basically about the melding ( or clash!) of two different cultures. In that film one of the characters says that we mustn’t let our past dictate who we are, but should carry our past into the future to make us the people we are going to be.
Until that future arrives I remain a little confused. And it looks as if I may soon assume another identity – that of mother –in-law! I promise to be a good one, but I’m not sure in what language.