There was that time in my teens, when Patricia (I’m not your aunt, I married your uncle) turned up at the back door unexpected, and rocked back on her heels, sucking in air. ‘Oh, for a minute I thought you were June!’
June was my mother’s mother, long since departed this mortal coil.
Mother has a ‘glamour shot’ on the wall in her front hall – people often think it’s me.
I was drifting, unhappy, without any real sense of self when my first boyfriend reconnected with me. During that brief bliss, one day I looked in the mirror and saw ME. It was the teenage me that he’d lusted after, fallen in love with. I was there…I am here. I began to use my old name from that moment.
Mostly though, when I look in the mirror I see my father. Is that because I want to? I belong to that side of me. I don’t identify with the maternal family, or even the immediate family. I miss my father.
I am my father’s altruism. My mother’s anxiety. My father’s huge heart capacity, global compassion, community involvement. My mother’s judgemental distance. And I am all my own reservations and introversion.
My son is so much my father, stir fried with his own father’s stubborn disengagement. And he is me. He identifies with the paternal side.
I am Irish, he’s Chinese.
We are apart – but when my heart beats, precious blood flows through his organs and we are connected.