influences, Life Talk

I am French

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with writing. It just seemed like an interesting topic.

When people ask me what my family heritage is, I don’t even hesitate.

“French,” I reply promptly.

In truth, French is a tiny part of my heritage. I am 1/8 French, to be precise. My father’s father’s mother was a Frenchwoman. The rest of the blood on my dad’s side is a mix of English, Dutch, and Irish, with a drop or two of Welsh.

On my mom’s side, we’re English and Scottish (and pure New Englander). Nothing else.

So really, I’m more English than anything else. English and Celtic, maybe.

But still: “French,” I say without even thinking about it.

And I sometimes wonder why that is? Is it because Great-Grandma Bates was such a strong personality? I was very young when she died, but even I have a few distinct memories of her, and I’ve heard stories about her all my life from my dad and his siblings (and their cousins). I’m much more of an Anglophile than a Francophile, yet I rarely talk or even think about my English blood.

Is it because the personality traits I value the most in myself are ones commonly associated with French people? Passion, joie de vivre, honor, clear-headedness in a crisis. Or that some of the traits I most desire for myself (and are forever out of reach) are also associated with the French? Sophistication, elegance, poise, reserve, tact.

You can see, in my grandfather’s generation, the humor of my English great-grandfather and the charm of my great-grandmother mixed together almost irresistibly (my dad and I took Grandpa and one of his brothers out for lunch one day, a few years ago, and both Grandpa and Uncle Fred got free pie, just because the waitresses were so delighted by them). In my dad’s generation, the charm has been diluted just a tad (but not much, as anyone who knows my dad and his siblings would agree) and the humor kicked up a notch due to my grandmother’s genes (even after the Alzheimer’s took everything else away from Grandma, she maintained her sense of humor until there was simply nothing left of her at all).

Me, I’m an odd blend of Scottish practicality, English humor, Celtic passion, Dutch shrewdness, and French joy (and a generous handful of less pleasant traits, too – but I’ll leave those for you to figure out) (no giving anyone clues, Carl). And maybe that’s what it boils down to – of everything I am and want to be, joyful is the most important to me. When I die, I want “extravagantly joyful” written on my tombstone (actually, that’s a lie – I don’t want a tombstone at all – but you get the idea). To live fully and joyously, to face bravely whatever lies ahead and navigate whatever treacherous waters there may be with a triumphant laugh, to spend my days with a song on my lips and a smile in my heart, and I’m going to stop there before this devolves further into cheesy pop song territory.

Despite my complete and utter lack of glamor, at my core, I feel French. That 1/8 burns stronger in my veins then all the rest of it. And if the French aren’t really like that after all?

Experimenting with some french couture a few years ago. Always fun!

Oh well. I’m a writer. Creating worlds and imaginary lands and then dwelling therein is what we do.

What is your family heritage, and do you feel yourself drawn more strongly to one part over another?