My Mother's Kitchen
I will inherit my mother’s kitchen,
her glasses, some tall and lean others short and fat
her plates, an ugly collection from various sets,
cups bought in a rush on different occasions
rusty pots she doesn’t throw away.
“Don’t buy anything just yet”, she says,
“soon all of this will be yours”.
My mother is planning another escape
for the first time home is her destination,
the rebuilt house which she will furnish.
At 69 she is excited about starting from scratch.
It is her ninth time.
She never talks about her lost furniture
when she kept leaving her homes behind.
She never feels regret for things
only her vine in the front garden
which spread over the trellis on the porch.
She used to sing for the grapes to ripen,
sew cotton bags to protect them from the bees.
I will never inherit my mother’s trees.
- Choman Hardi
My mother and brother recently got their DNA analyzed to find out what their heritage was. My mother's was no surprise - 100% Greek - but my brother and I have always wondered if my dad is as Irish as he thinks he is. The results that came back for my brother were confusing and fascinating - 50% Greek, 19% Scandinavian, 10% Western European, 8% Western Asia, 5% Middle Eastern, and 3% Caucasian (from the Caucus region).
Obviously that 50% Greek is from my mom's side, and I suspect that 10% is the Irish Dad claims, but Scandinavian? We never knew. Mr. PW immediately scoffed and remarked "Vikings, of course." And I suppose that makes sense. But where do the Western Asian, Caucasian, and Middle Eastern come in? I'm having a hard time with the math. It makes more sense that those parts of me would be intermingled with the Greek half out of sheer proximity, but Mom can only be 50% of me. I'll never know how my ancestors moved across Europe, intermingling (or raping), spreading genes and blood and heritage until I emerged in 1982, a red-faced baby with a shock of black hair, the product of a marriage not meant to last, destined to have a single sibling that I don't always understand but always love, sharing this hazy history.
I remember when my brother was younger, he went through a time insisting that he didn't care about his heritage, and that he was just "American". Now that he's a decade older, he's changed his mind. I suppose aging does that - gives you the ability to see the long view and get a better sense of all that goes into the creation of each of us. You also start to realize that in fact, you're not special and unique in a grand, change the world way, but you are special in a more humble way, and you start to think about the legacy you want to leave.
As Mr. PW and I get older and start to think about having a family, I think about sending kids that are only 25% Greek to Greek school, taking kids that are only 25% Greek to a Greek church. Sometimes it seems like there's no point, and sometimes it seems like that's all the more reason to cling to the heritage, despite the fact that I'm a Greek school dropout, can't speak more than a few words, and my first pastitsio was a disaster of epic proportions. Should I bother forcing a culture on my kids that they might only vaguely identify with?
Who knows how accurate all this testing is in the end. Maybe it's what we choose to be, in the best American tradition of recreating oneself. And maybe we can't escape who we are.