Ethiopian Culture / Ethiopian Identity / Family / Hearts Abroad / Hearts Abroad (Diasporas on love) / Immigrant Life / Novel / Writing

Prompt # 20 – history

More Notes from the Canadian honey jar

So, you know that question ‘if you could meet anyone dead or alive, who would it be?’ Let’s modify that to: if you could meet either of your parents at any stage of their life before you were born, at what stage would you want to meet them, and why? (Of course there’s a why, untangling the why is my life’s work!)

June 2, 2017

being born, we don’t realize we’re stepping into history. We think history began with us, when we were born.

They only begin to exist from when we first became aware of them. Their life story begins with the first thing we learn about them, and it goes from there. Everything that happened to them before, which we will find out because it’s inevitable, was just stuff they did to spend time/to pass the time, until we came along and things really got started. It never occurs to us that we are simply part of the flow of history. This only begins to occur to us when we find ourselves in the same place they were at when the new ones are born. I am talking for myself here. I’m talking about how I realized that how the current little ones perceive me is how I perceived my aunts, uncles, parents, back when I was their age – as these seemingly-eternal persons who had always been ‘old’ and ‘tall’ and ‘mysterious’ and had just been waiting for me to come along.

…they have no inkling of how much went on before they got here. Actually how much had to go on so they could  get here. And maybe, if they care enough to find out, and if the parents are open to talking about themselves and their past (which I hope they are, it would make an enormous difference, help them see us as human as opposed to these perfectly poised, all-knowing beings with their affairs in order all the time), they will one day see themselves as part of a continuum.

Even what we know now about our own folks, from what we’ve been told directly, and have pieced together from dropped/overheard crumbs of information, I know it is but a fraction of the full-picture. And the further we get from that picture (of life of our parents before we came along, the more it fades).

I think maybe this generation of parents will be more forthcoming to the little ones about their past.

But the thing is, so often the exact thing we want to know more about (esp. how our parents got together, that ‘love story’) is the exact thing that by the time we are old enough to ask about it/wonder about it/hear it, their relationship has lost so much of that heat and spark and whatnot that it’s the last thing they want to talk about (or encourage; though they still want the grandkids!) The best time to ask them about that is when they’re still young and hot for one another, before life (i.e. childcare) totally rubbed the sheen/glow off their relationship. When it comes back, if it does come back at all, it’ll be when one of them is dead or near death (hence the ‘sweetness’ of tizita!)

It’s almost as if we have to be detectives. Piecing together what little clues lie around the house, to get an idea of the way things were, the way things began. Wedding photos are just the start (assuming there are any, with expressions on their faces that we have never seen in real life!). There’s also the music they choose to listen to, and when they listen to it (the soft romantic, old school stuff always seemed to come on when they had their old friends over). The bits of their past history they do mention. What the aunties and uncles say about how they were when they were courting, etc. (trust the mother and father to not say a word about any of that, ever).

Why is it that the story of how we came to be (which is the story of how him and her came to be together) is the one story everyone is so tight-lipped about, unless it involves a case of it being arranged?

Reminds me of that tweet (meme? idf know!) about how habesha parents never want you to go out, never want you to be around boys, never want you to dress seductively/attractively, never talk to you about sex and relationships, but somehow they expect you to get married and have children (and assume your marriage will be a success). What are we, magicians??

We have no template to go on other than what little clues we pick up about how they did it, and popular culture of course both habesha and whatever western stuff made its way in. (I’m not even touching how it is now, with internet, social media, etc. That’s for a book another 30 years from now, when these little ones have become the ‘eternal’ ones that will seem, to the next set of little ones, to have just been waiting for them to get their lives started.)

 

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