Having spent two years in Japan, a county so rich in its cultural history and identity, it makes you ponder your own.
Sadly my nan had passed when I was away so upon my return I wanted to reconnect with my granddad. I wanted to find out about their lives and their motivation for adopting children from three different ethnic backgrounds.
We spoke of his travels, how he met my nan, the trials and tribulations they faced with him being English and her being German post Second World War. Despite the backlash they faced their love kept them together. He was a great story teller and I was enthralled by the details. And it brought us closer together. It helped me understand them as people not just as my grandparents. I liked the adult relationship we had as there is a certain type of honesty that comes from that.
Despite their best intentions they faced a major hurdle where my nan had a horrendous accident that placed her in a coma for many months. She was pregnant too and lost the baby. Luckily she recovered but was never the same person, much to the distress of all in many different ways.
Coupling this with the time era, there really was a lack of support for everyone on both an emotional and practical level. How does anyone educate children on their ethnic background with no insight themselves or education on the matter?
Sadly this created a void for everyone so much so that even my mum did not tell me about the adoption. My Granddad did when we were on holiday in Great Yarmouth. I remember feeling so confused particularly as the information was just delivered matter of factly with no emotion to buffer the blow. A sign of that generation I believe. Deal with it. I was eleven at the time I think. The feeling of shock is still with me as if it was yesterday.
And then of course there were lots of questions I wanted answering. What does this mean? Who are you? Who are we? Oh we are not related, none of us are? This is so confusing.
But because my mum had never told me I didn’t want to ask her as I felt her shame. Shame of being from a different background. I recall her saying things like
“I wish I wasn’t one of them”,
referring to Indian women as we drove through Leicester and my Granddad placing his hand over hers and responding with “I know”. Lots of comments hinting towards her shame began to resurface. How could I bring it up?
Such a shame literally. As there has never been celebration towards her cultural heritage, allowing her to embody that element, understand it and embrace it. Instead it was the complete opposite, bury it, lift up the rug and sweep it under. Let’s ignore it. Let’s pretend that element of your identity does not exist.
But that was not going to be a deterrent for me.