Disclaimer: To quote the copy of “Brideshead Revisted” that is currently MIA on one of our many bookshelves:
“I am not me. You are not you.”
…or something like that. Yes, I could look up the quote on the net, but I refuse to do that with a book I have actually read, own, and could find, if only I could figure out where the hell it is.
This is “based on a true story“, as they say at the beginning of all the best films (1)
Once upon a time, I had the standard number of grandparents. (2) Two of them travelled from Tennessee to Michigan, to find work. The other two took large, slow boats across a big, cold ocean from Transylvania to America for adventure – in the case of my then-17-year-old grandfather, who had not yet earned the name “Mosu” (3) – and to keep house for her brother (4), in the case of my 15-year-old grandmother, who later became known as “Mama Buna”.
Both sets, I suspect though do not know for certain in the case of my Southern grandparents, faced struggles, including prejudice. Certainly the Romanian ones fought the local Irish immigrants for jobs, and for … well, whatever reasons the most recent immigrants sometimes fight with the previous arrivals.
Times were hard, for all concerned. All four were born within a 10 year span which meant they lived and worked through WW1, the “Spanish” flu (5), the Great Depression, and WWII.
Fast forward a whole lotta years, and the development of flight from rickety contraptions no one but the early aviators would dare go up in, to the transatlantic flights of the mid 1980s. And the refinement of the telephone from something barely advanced from Bell shouting for Watson, to landlines which were capable of transatlantic calls, if you didn’t mind paying through the ear, throat and nose.
I fell in love. With my pen pal. Who just happened to be English. And lived next door to God. Which is to say, in Yorkshire.
So, I moved to Yorkshire, to be with my new husband. It took some time, and form filling, and to-ing and fro-ing. Which is annoying when you’re young, and in love, and just want to be together. But, to the extent that a fairly impatient person can accept anything, I did.
Because it was worth it. Because he was, and still is, worth that wait.
Fast forward a few more years, and a considerable decaying of accent, later. Attitudes towards foreigners in both my home country, and my adopted one, shifted. In a way that was far from pleasant.
I decided to do this:
The process of becoming a British citizen involved time, paperwork, the “Life in the UK” test (6), and a lot of dosh. And was done as much for emotional reasons, as the right to finally – after around 25 years – be able to add the description “voter” to my already existing ones of “resident alien”, and, let’s not forget, “taxpayer”.
During the ceremony, I sat in one of the chairs at the Mansion House, holding the “death card” which the funeral home produced when Mosu died, aged 104.
Because I remembered that he, and later Mama Buna, both went through a similar process, to become US citizens. Because he was proud of both his Romanian heritage, and his US citizenship.
Because he, and the rest of Dad’s family, taught me it’s perfectly possible to wear two nationalities with pride.
Whether that be Romanian-American, Anglo-American, Romanian-British, Black British, Asian British … the list, and the possibilities, are endless.
And the pot is as ready for the melting, as for stirring.
Pass the spoon, please.
(1) Unlike the films, this really *is* a true story.
(2) Which is probably something like 4.2 on average, if you figure in step-grandparents
(3) Literally “old man”, it also means “grandfather”
(4) “Only for six months”, she told her mum. It ended up being more like 80 years.
(5) It killed more people than WW1.
(6) There is, and was, also a test to check potential citizens’ abilities to speak English. I was spared this, for some reason.