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?

20 thoughts on “I am French”

  1. It's amazing how we truly are a melting pot of cultures and races. I'm Swedish and English. One side came over on the Mayflower and the other side lived the life of Kirsten, the American Doll. :)Sorry about your grandmother!

  2. very chic and tailored too!I'm pretty WASPy- Scottish and English with a shot of Irish to add internal conflict, haha. When asked, I say I'm a mongrel. However, thinking about it, I may have my English roots to thank for my Anglomania!

  3. I love this! I actually have some Spanish heritage in my blood though no one believes me when I tell them so. Blonde hair and blue eyes kind ruin me ever claiming that line of heritage. Still I like to think of myself as a senorita in disguise :)

  4. I still have distant Bates cousins living in England, sheep farmers on the old family homestead. I have dreams of someday visiting them and getting in touch with my English roots.

  5. "Senorita in disguise" I love this! One of my good friends is a blond-haired, blue-eyed "Tia" to my kids, but that's because she is fluent in Spanish and thought that Tia sounded more fun than Auntie, not because she actually has any Spanish blood. :-)

  6. It does get confusing, and for many Americans, at least, each generation just gets more of a tangle. My kids are a mix of everything on my side, plus English, Swedish, Lithuanian, and Polish on their dad's. Whew!

  7. My mom is from the Netherlands, so even though my dad is American, I feel very Dutch. Though honestly, when I visit the country I don't really feel like I belong there either. I think first generations often have the feeling of being "outside" culture, not quite belonging anywhere. But like all things, it's a gift too because it's easier not to make cultural assumptions.

  8. Sometimes I think it'd be neat to have only one or two bloodlines running through my veins instead of the almost-dozen I do have. The universal appeal of what we can't have, I suppose! (Which might also explain my lifelong desire for long, straight, thick red hair).Adieu, mon amie!

  9. Oh my yes, not making automatic cultural assumptions is SUCH a gift. And a rare one, too. But I can see how the flip side, of never really feeling like anywhere is "home," would be difficult as well.

  10. Fun post! I am a European mutt: German, Irish, Czech, English, Swedish. I think I feel most connected to my German roots, perhaps because I've been to the small town where my German family was from and know some of the language. The stereotypical German sense of order also appeals to me and my Type A ways.

  11. I loved my French class in college, but I've forgotten almost all of it by now. Someday I hope to go back and study it more thoroughly!I also love the Welsh language, though try finding a college class for THAT in most liberal arts schools!

  12. Oh, that's so thrilling, to be able to go back and visit the place where your family came from. I was just talking with one of my uncles on FB about this very thing – how cool it would be to go to the tiny towns in France where we started (curiously enough – we come from farming stock on every side, and while none of this current generation are farmers, we still feel deeply connected with the land and with growing things, and are definitely drawn to a more rural lifestyle. Coincidence, or in our blood …?).

  13. Hi! Would you like to know how far behind I am reading blogs? This far, obviously. But I have devotedly kept your entries unread but still in the feed even as I went and dropped many that I decided weren't worth reading after all!I cannot comment on the autumn reading posts, because lately my brain hasn't felt like reading. It's scary. Let's not dwell on it, because possibly most of the people I've befriended online would disown me for having such feelings. But I can comment on this one. I too am mostly a mix of English/Scottish-and-yet-have-been-American-since-colonial-days, but I've got an 8th of Swedish and a quarter Slovak (and possibly an 8th of German. This hasn't been proven, but it's long been suspected that my maternal grandmother was actually the product of an affair with the German-immigrant milkman. YES, SHE'S LITERALLY THE MILKMAN'S DAUGHTER). I AM such an Anglophile that you'd think I'd glom on to all the English more, but the Slovaks were the most recent immigrants in my family history, so it's less diluted, AND since this is my dad's dad's family we're talking about, that's the name I grew up with– an unpronounceable or spellable (depending which direction you're coming from) eastern European last name. So that definitely sticks out the most. Also– although this didn't happen until I was in college, so hardly shaped my childhood or anything– my dad has gone to Slovakia and actually found and befriended his second cousin and family there. Not likely going to find any closer relatives in the Old Countries….

  14. I am what my husband refers to as a "European Mutt." Irish, English, French, German. I like to say I'm French, too. It just sounds more glamorous than the others!

  15. I THINK – and I'd have to check with my gram to be certain – but I think I have some distant relatives on my mom's side still in Scotland. That branch of the family comes from the Isle of Skye – I really, really want to visit there someday. As well as the Bates relatives still raising sheep on the old family homestead in Kent.That's pretty awesome about your dad. I love hearing about families connecting.

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