Sunday, September 14, 2008

more about my mom and a note from my sister

My sister reads my blog. She sent me the following e-mail about my previous post. I think it is a likely explanation for why my nickname came into being and was removed suddenly.

I thought I'd check your blog and saw the post about your name, and I have a theory as to why mom called you by anna in kindergarten. You called yourself a "word geek". Well, I'm a bit of a sociology geek. I love to wonder and know why people behave and react based on external circumstances.

I think maybe she did it for the same reason that she didn't teach us dutch. For european immigrants, the best way to assimilate was to adopt the language of their country. They didn't have different religions or skin colours which acted as barriers to Canadian society. So when mom was little, the rule at home was that she speak English to teach Oma, Opa and the younger ones. Learning English became a huge part of her upbringing. Not always a fond memory, but a necessity.

In Dad's family, the rule was "no English at home". which is one reason (of many) why it was Grandma who gave you a dutch nickname.

When mom brought you to kindergarten, you were very close to the age in which she was when she immigrated, and had a dutch nickname which people in her Canadian class ridiculed. It's possible that she was aware - consciously or subconsciously - of the effects that her dutch nickname had on her. Perhaps reverting to your given, and English name was a reaction of her upbringing as a Dutch immigrant and recollections of having to be renamed as well.

I also think that both of my parents were conscious of the school being a higher authority. Perhaps the school, or the principal told them that I could only be called by my given name.

Either way, it's an interesting study. I'd also forgotten that my mom had a nickname - all of her siblings did as well- that she was teased about as a child.

I think a lot about my mom, what shaped her, what shaped me in turn. Her early life was not easy - and a blog post all on its own.

Yesterday I told my mom that N and I weren't together any longer. I didn't tell her the whole story - I figure that if I take little steps towards the reality of my sexual orientation, it will be easier for everyone to handle. Especially me.

She didn't bat an eyelash - there was no surprise or disappointment at all. All she said was "if the two of you can work out sharing the house, that would be good for E and for you." And then she said "I really like N, but...."

And although she didn't finish the sentence, I read all the doubts and fears she's had about my relationship with him, about my happiness, about her own discomfort in his presence. It's hard to be around someone who hardly ever relaxes, who has this barrier of reserve around him that is almost impenetrable. He doesn't recognize that he is reserved at all, because verbally he is quite forthcoming, but emotionally he is often unreachable.

While I agonize, reflect, and journal, and learn to build community around myself, he's out there looking for another woman. I want connections that are meaningful, and I believe that those connections will lead me to something that is powerful, emotional, passionate. He's conducting a systematic search. While exhibiting all the symptoms of an imminent depression. Not a healthy place to be, as far as I'm concerned.

I needed to tell my mom, needed her to know something about what's going on in my life.

I needed to tell her because I volunteered to host Thanksgiving this year and someone will figure out that both bedrooms are being used as bedrooms, that my clothes are in another closet, that there is something going on. And because I need to tell her.

I needed to tell her because she needs time to adjust, she needs to disseminate the information and call people up and tell them what's going on, and sigh. And talk about the peripherals openly while reflecting inside about more important issues that she often leaves unspoken. I think she understands, and from her response, I know where her loyalties rest.

And when I have the courage to tell her the rest of the story, I hope she understands that, as well.

Because she's my mom. And she has always been there for me.


Earth Muffin said...

I hope so too. It seems that baby steps for your mom is the right thing to do. Good luck with Thanksgiving dinner! We're vegetarians so it's never expected for us to host any kind of big family occasion...and for that I'm grateful.

Avril Fleur said...

Congrats on taking the first step in opening up to your Mom. It sounds like slow-going with her will be best for you both.

Maria said...

Telling family is dicey. Make sure that you are prepared for anything. I came out to my family when I was 24 and my mother promptly disowned me. It had never occurred to me that she would do that and dealing with that at the ripe old age of 24 was an experience that is still reverberating within me....

m.m.sugar said...

As an Italian immigrant my father came home one night after digging ditches in Hells Kitchen, a real tough part of New York, he had been beaten because he was considered a foreigner. I was told that this occured in the early forties. He announced that only English was to be spoken in the house hence forward. The family spoke French, Italian and some German. We lost three languages due to prejudice.

Camlin said...

Earth Muffin - most of the time I eat vegetarian at home. But if i tried to serve tofu to some of my family I think they would order pizza instead. I've already told them that there will be turkey.

Maria - if I had come out to them at that age, they would have disowned me. Conservative and Catholic. They are a lot more open-minded than they used to be, but it's till hard to gauge their reaction. Little steps are better for them.

Chein-Ko- My parents immigrated in the early 1950's as children. at the time there was a special program that brought in a large number of Dutch and Belgian families to provide farm labour. Families were supposed to be given basic furnishings and shelter, and a small monthly wage. Both families handled their situations and their language barriers very differently. In the reading I've done, there were many families who spent their first years in Canada without adequate shelter, without being properly paid. My own grandparents were given an uninsulated construction shack to house themselves and seven children. It was not the rosy picture the government painted, that's for sure.