Every now and then I ask myself this all important question. This is more in the context of where did I come from? Yes, I know how babies are made! I am thinking more in terms of my heritage. What in my family’s history has made me who I am? What do I have to offer to my son in terms of his heritage? Well the answer is diddly squat because I know little or nothing about my family’s past. There appears to be nothing that binds us together as a cohesive supportive group. We are just a mish mash of different people who rarely find themselves in the same room. Sometimes this makes me jealous.
Nova Scotians are known for music and family and kitchen parties, especially those from Cape Breton where my seed was planted years ago. I however was gone from that part of the province before I was two months old. Also both parents were the product of Non-Cape Bretoners My mother’s father was from Wales, but moved to Nova Scotia as a lad; and her mother was from mainland Nova Scotia and lost her own mother at a very young age. They spent their lives working hard to raise and feed their six kids. The younger years spent moving every time they couldn’t pay the rent. Not much time for fun, music and sharing stories.
My birth father’s parents were both from Newfoundland; but I don’t know what happened to them because they were not the typical funny, musical, fun Newfoundlanders that one sees on a regular basis. And boy do I envy that heritage. I rarely saw the pair, but when I did they were miserable. My grandfather was severe and borderline mean, especially to my long suffering-grandmother. She did develop some wonderful independent ideas after he passed on; but still, the past was the past and not spoken about.
I envy the Afro-Canadians who have such a strong sense of family and community even though their shared history is rife with tragedy and racism. I envy the Italians who bond over food and large gatherings, and the Acadians who do the same. The Lebanese who have a strong work ethic, a great sense of appreciation, and a way of making everything special. They all have what I appear to be missing. An identifiable heritage.
Me, well I grew up with a two working parents (a mom and stepdad) who’s objective was housing and bringing up five kids and making sure they had the basics of life. Food. Clothing. Shelter. There wasn’t time for heritage. Neither really had much to say on the subject because their own parents had spent their lives doing the exact same thing. And as with their own parents, there was also not much time for anything else. We were very competitive kids when it came to time with, and attention from, our parents. It was every kid for him or herself.
The closest we got to bonding was in front of the TV set where we were inundated with American shows, as Canadian content at the time was limited. We picked up American values and backstories. We became the middle class with nowhere to go but forward, with each of us having a different idea of what that meant. And this is part of the problem. We are divisive and have no heritage to unite us together. We do not do well when put in the same room.
But sometimes, I do not feel jealous. I feel relief because the introvert in me is spared the groups and small talk that I find both so socially competitive and exhausting. Because even when there was the odd annual gathering in younger years, I spent much my time in avoidance mode. Finding a quiet corner, being accused of snobbery when really I was so shy and tongue tied that I wanted to puke. I got close to no one. Either that, or in later gatherings, finding my words in a couple of glasses of wine and then voicing a not-so-popular statement that would piss someone off because I have turned into a Pro-Canadian feminist while others remain chauvinistic and more interested in the lower American prices.
To be honest, I have literally spent most my life under the radar. So what have I done to counteract this behavior? Not much really. Except when it comes to my own family. My own, mostly introverted, family that consists of The Doc and JT, both introverts; two non-introverted stepsons; their wonderful semi-introverted spouses and four grandchildren. Plus a couple of friends who have chosen me to be in their circle, because I am woefully lacking friend-making skills. These are the people, I make an effort for. And after another rumination on this subject, I once again realize that I am content because, for me, they are enough.
Thank you for reading
Photos: Jenn Stone