I’m going to let you in on a little secret:
I’m not who I say I am.
Or at least, I’m not who I used to say I was. Or, wait. Um, I’m not even sure how to diagram that last sentence let alone correct it, so we’ll just move on.
For my entire life, at least the parts I remember, I have been telling people that my paternal grandmother was Dutch, and since I look almost exactly like her, I identified very strongly as Dutch. My real last name (not the pen name you all know) is Czechoslovakian. (Incidentally, I also identify strongly as Czech because of my stubbornness, which comes from that side of the family, probably not from Czechs generally, just my Czech grandpa. But that’s a blog post for another time.)
Where was I… Oh, yes. I identified as Dutch. My favorite flower is a tulip. I love Dutch beer. Heineken, anyone? I love looking at pictures of The Netherlands and the Dutch people and seeing how similar their features looked to mine. I was even planning a Some Day Trip to the country where my grandmother’s family is from and learning more about my ancestry.
Except, she isn’t from Holland. She’s from Belgium. Wait, it gets better. Because I didn’t learn that little fact from a DNA test. It’s fact, it seems, that was well known to the rest of my family.
Just not me.
I’ve seen Grandma’s ancestry chart, you guys. Her whole family is Belgian. Not Dutch. Not German. Not even a tiny bit French. As far back as it can be traced–and it’s way far back–her family hails from Belgium. Just Belgium.
I don’t know anything about Belgium. Then again, why would I? I was certain I was Dutch so why would I need to know anything about this place called Belgium?
True confession: I actually had to Google where Belgium was located. I gave myself a half a point for knowing it was on Mainland Europe and was probably on the Western side of Europe (sadly, I could not give myself any additional points for a probably.)
I knew virtually nothing about this tiny little country that is tucked along the seaside between France and The Netherlands (which I totally now know thanks to Google Maps).
It’s funny how we can go our whole lives thinking of ourselves a certain way only to find out later that we were wrong. It’s not a bad thing, me knowing that I’m Belgium. I’m not a completely different person. I have a new perspective on myself that I perhaps didn’t have before. Whether that’s a good thing, a bad thing or nothing at all remains to be seen.
What am I doing about it? What else? Eating more Belgium waffles (for research purposes, of course) and planning two European Some Day Trips. One to Belgium, because it’s my grandma’s home country.
And one to Holland, because tulips are still my favorite flower.