Originally posted January, 2015.
Watching Downton Abbey, I find myself weeping, homesick for a country I barely lived in. I was born in London at the end of May, 1953 in a scene right out of Call the Midwife. Princess Elizabeth was officially crowned Queen on June 2nd and my parents, who had been hoping my birth would come a few days later — thereby entitling them to a year's worth of free nappies— named me Simone Elizabeth in her honor. But we left England when I was three. In my 60's now, I haven't been 'home' to England in 25 years; with both my British parents dead, I know some of my tears are for them.
I feel bereft, my British heritage vanished with the passing of my parents and the few aunts and uncles I ever knew. Watching top British actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, Helen Mirren, and Eddie Redmayne in the films I write about on Chapter1-Take1, my book-to-movie blog makes me ache with longing. All the episodes of Downton Abbey, Broadchurch, Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley can't bring me the connection I'm yearning for. George Gently, Doc Martin, Inspector Morse. Sometimes I'm not even paying attention to the story lines, I'm just listening to the familiar lilt, the turn of phrase. I can hear my
Even the green grassy backdrop of The Great British Baking Show on PBS makes me drool. Or that could just be the delicious British biscuits. By biscuits, I mean cookies. The bikkies as my dad would say; my favorites being the chocolate biscuits that Natalie served the prime minister in Love Actually.
A twitter friend asked me recently if I considered myself an Anglophile.
An Anglophile? I'm English too! I want to scream. How can I be a bloody Anglophile? Would you call a Frenchman a Francophile? I was born in England. Parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, the bloody lot. All British.
But I don't talk like that. I don't say bloody. It's just not a part of my American vocabulary. I don't say Brilliant! when I mean Awesome or Fantastic! I don't call the elevator the lift, or say trainers when I mean running shoes. Except for my British blood, British birth and British passport, I'm more American than British.
Except at Christmas, when we still really get our English on. We pop the Christmas crackers and wear silly tissue-paper crowns at dinner. We sit around the table and compare the inexpensive trinkets that tumble out when the crackers explode; we unfold the tiny bits of paper and read the awful jokes:
One of my nieces sneers that friends of hers are having Christmas crackers at their holiday dinner too. "They're not even British!" she complains. "They're just being trendy."Question: How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas?Answer: Deep pan, crisp and even!
We all laugh at the notion of Christmas crackers being trendy, but we're pissed — and I don't mean drunk — that our fellow Americans are encroaching on our traditions.
My brother and I take turns making the mince pies — no, there's no meat in the mincemeat, I get tired of explaining year after year. This year, for the first time in a long time, I stuffed a small plum pudding with foil-wrapped coins. After I pour brandy on top, my sister lights it with a match and using his iPhone, my husband tries to catch the dancing blue flame that mesmerized me when I was a child, but it's not quite the same.
"I've never even made you a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner!" I sob to my son when Downton Abbey is over. Was it when my father died that my mother stopped making roast beef almost every Sunday? Or when Alzheimer's came that she stopped completely? How could I have let that tradition slip away?
"What's happened to my heritage? I haven't even been to England in over twenty years."
"Let's go," he says giving me a hug. "Let's add it to the list."
"Yeah. I'd love to go with you and Dad someday."
Someday means when he has a girlfriend to take along. He can't abide the idea of traveling with just the two of us.
"You know I loved it when I was there. When I was on that senior trip, the teacher said 'I knew you'd fit right in here.' I don't think he even knew I was half-British!"
That he feels half-British takes most of my tears away. "You really feel English?"
"Mom, we drink tea all the time!"
I sniffle up the rest of the drops. "Would you like a cup of tea? A cuppa?" I ask with a laugh. A good cup of tea, as every true Brit knows, is the answer to everything.
"That'd be great." He gives me another hug. "Shall I put the kettle on?"