martedì 2 settembre 2014

Back to my (our) roots

They say that as you get older, you tend to search more and more for your roots and go back to what you know. Whilst it's true that, as a mum to a three year-old, my dancing-on-tables-in-dodgy-nightclub days appear to be all but over (never say never!), at 34 I don't yet consider myself totally past it. I do nonetheless find myself increasingly drawn to all things English, little reminders of my childhood, and I feel an increasing need to keep in touch and stay up to date with current affairs in the UK. Much more so than ever before in the 10 years that I have lived full-time in Italy. Perhaps it's because I'm aware that my child is growing up in a country which is very different from my country of origin, and as such her only (invisible) link with British culture and history is, well, me. Before Sophie was born, I was quite happy to immerse myself 100% in Italian life, watch the local news, eat classic Mediterranean dishes, and speak only Italian at all times. It felt like some sort of personal achievement - a lifelong goal to make my way in the world in a language and culture which I had learned from scratch and about which I knew nothing prior to my 16th birthday. Now that I have Sophie and have been here long enough for the place to no longer feel even slightly "foreign", it's like I am trying to go back on myself and regain some of that lost ground. Back in the day, being able to hold my own at the butchers or make a phone call to the gas company gave me a sense of satisfaction - a sort of "aren't I clever" reaction, which has now been replaced by the desire to ensure that Sophie knows the names of the things on our shopping list in both languages, and doesn’t forget that while things might be done a certain way in Italy, they are done a different way in the UK. I have become almost fanatical about her bilingualism, to the point where, despite having been born here and going to an Italian nursery every day, her English is now way ahead of her Italian (#smugmummy)… This summer didn’t involve the classic family holiday to foreign climes, as Luca had to keep the restaurant open and I needed to make up time at the office. As a result, Sophie spent most of August with her English grandparents, some time in the UK and some time at the beach here in Italy for the few days that we did all manage to get away together. She ate Cornish pasties on a chilly town quay surrounded by seagulls, had gelato at midnight in a balmy piazza, watched The Sound of Music approximately 10 times while the rain beat at the windows, and played happily on the beach, chatting incessantly with the other Italian children at the Mini Club. That’s the thing about having two cultures and two languages to call your own – it’s easy to fall into the classic “no man’s land” expat syndrome, where your home country feels increasingly “foreign” and your adoptive country will always see you to some extent as an outsider. What I truly hope for Sophie is that, having both Italian and English blood, being completely bilingual, and living as much of both cultures as possible, she will grow up safe in the knowledge that her roots are firmly planted in both places and that she can choose between pasties or pasta, fish and chips or gelato, rock pools or swaying palms – and none of it will feel even slightly “foreign”...

1 commento:

Jenny P ha detto...

I've just discovered your blog and I'm so glad. What a wonderful read it is. I hope you can find time to keep blogging about your life in Milan. I'm a fairly new expat here so still at the level of congratulating myself when I can successfully book a table at a restaurant. A phone call to Fastweb or the Gas company still puts me in a spin. Hope it won't take 10 years!
Ciao e grazie mille.