Last week I was talking to another “foreign born spouse” as people like to call us, about how things are different for us. When we move to a new country, our husbands go to work the next day, and essentially return to America. They have all the structure, routine, and familiarity immediately in place. Not so for us, who are immediately trying to find ourselves (again) in a foreign land. We are the ones getting lost as we drive around trying to find new schools, and so on.
Now, likely all those married into the foreign service are nodding their heads at this point. But things are different if you’re not US-born. We get lost in a different way. When homesickness creeps in, you know that it won’t be long until there is a Thanksgiving, or Independence Day celebration. You know that when it is time for home leave, you’ll actually go home.
It is over three and a half years since I was in England. My son has never been to the mother country. I have nephews and a niece I’ve never even met in person.
The same day we had this conversation, we went into one of those fancy shops that make you forget which continent you’re one because everything is imported. Lo and behold, there was an entire table of decorations and accessories for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee that had been imported from Blighty.
My husband often laughs at the way I’ve become so much more English since becoming American too. He was particularly perplexed when I
suggested demanded that we host a Jubilee celebration in honour of Her Majesty!
I’m the same person who, when living in England, was so disinterested in all things to do with the monarchy that I don’t even remember The Golden Jubilee taking place.
But then, am I the same person? It isn’t just about being an expat now. Since being married, my identity has changed so much. First I was a wife, then a mother, then American, then a special needs mother.
Soon I’ll be a working mother too, and I’ll proudly serve my American community here, but at times I wonder if I’m losing every part of who I used to be, as I become identified only in relation to somebody else. I’m Spectrummy Daddy’s wife when I go to the Consulate. I’m Pudding’s or Cubby’s mum at their schools. I’d say there are many people here who don’t even know my name, let alone who I am.
Later that evening, I tried to explain things to Spectrummy Daddy. I turned to Cubby (my kids are also dual nationals) and asked him if her was American or English.
‘Merican. I’m not English, I’m a ‘merican.
Spectrummy Daddy tried to rememdy things by asking him if he liked
soccer, I mean, football.
I like soccer!
Sigh. With no further delay, I set to sending out invites, making the decorations, and creating a menu as British as could be for our very own Jubilee celebration. Pudding only became involved when she saw what amounts of cream and sugar my people use. But every royal kitchen needs an official taster, right?
The party was a great success, and it sated my inner Brit until we get to go to England in September. We toasted Her Royal Highness, we read out loud the Duke of Edinburgh’s gaffes, we drank Pimm’s and ate coronation chicken, cucumber sandwiches, scones and trifle.
But all this was for me.
The kids ate, then disappeared. Cubby was upstairs playing with his American/Chinese-Australian friends, while Pudding played outdoors holding hands with our American/Australian neighbour. Our community is nothing if not like a 1980s Benetton commercial.
Proving once again that my kids have figured out lessons I keep having to live through. It isn’t about where you hail from, or what your passport says, or where you call home. It is about being true to yourself and enjoying every moment life has to offer you, no matter where you happen to be.
I’m going to start right now- by enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit. I’m sure Her Majesty would approve.