Friday, June 8, 2012

I am from the UFO

The red, white and blue foil balloons are aloft in Safeway and the girl behind the deli counter is frosting cupcakes to look like hamburgers.  She’s deft with the pastry bag, her hibiscus-tattooed arms hold the bag of red frosting steady as she draws short squiggles of ‘ketchup’ on the chocolate patty.  Wren stands enraptured as she repeats it with yellow ‘mustard’ and then, donning plastic gloves, shakes on the green coconut lettuce as a topping.

“How do you make the lettuce?” he wonders.
“I put green food coloring in the coconut” she explains in a whisper.

"Of course!"  I think.  Friends, be warned, this is my new plan  – pour green frosting on the shaved coconut and make little burger-cupcakes for desert.

Wren turns around and notices the balloons with U.S.A on them. 

“What does that say?”  He asks, trying to make sense of the letters.
“It says USA” I explain.  “America – its for the 4th of July holiday.”
“WHAT!” he looks shocked.  “I thought USA was the name for a flying saucer!”
“Nope, that’s a UFO.”
“Oh” he says, confused about his nationality.

This is the same kid who was concerned about the ZA on my car earlier.  I explained I had a ZA sticker on my car because I am a South African, a Zuid Afrikan.    He objected:

“But I am NOT a South African and I am in your car.”
“You ARE a South African a bit,” I tested (not yet fully resigned to having American children.)
“I am NOT!  I am AMERICAN” he insisted, watching my face carefully.  “Did you not KNOW that?”
“I did” I said.
“Were you just TEASING?”

I can’t explain it to him. I am not teasing.  It seems a ridiculous thing to have American children.  When I married an American man it was like trying a flavor of icecream I was a bit sceptical of – say rhubarb chocolate mint.  I didn’t think ahead to spawning rhubarb choc-mint kids.  I keep trying to garnish them with foreigness – making sure to register them as Australian’s born overseas, informing them of their South African genealogy and talking about family overseas.

Sadly, my mixed-nationalism is not working.

A few months ago I learned that Frost had told his teacher that I was born in Australia (or perhaps England?).  She invited me to class to talk about the history of the UK and Ireland.  I had to put her off gently and tell her that I was South African and happy to talk about Africa.

A few weeks ago, Frost was learning the geography of Africa (with which I am hopeless beyond the borders of old Apartheid South Africa) and I noticed that Lesotho and Swaziland were mixed up.  I corrected the map but Frost still got it wrong on the test!


Anyway, for those of you not in the USA I should explain the reason for the theme of nationalism.  We are entering the onramp for the next national holiday – 4th of July or INDEPENDENCE DAY.    Its the day when the television shows us people waving flags, everyone braais (BBQs, barbies) and its supposed to be SUMMER.   I am considering celebrating the Queens Jubilee that Day or calling it UFO Day but regardless,we are having a party.

Frost is planning it with his friend Jack.  He is calling it “Frost’s birthday, July 4th, beginning of summer party!”  He has asked permission to construct a  big creeper out of cardboard and to blow up its head with fireworks.

He has also asked me to buy a big bag of toy soldiers to melt and destroy with fireworks and to get a few "old barbies and ken guys".

I like the creativity of this plan but since Seattle City Ordinances prohibit fireworks, I am tentative in my support.  How can we have a party and then leave the city limits to let off our “Coconuts and Chrysanthenums” or “Bad Monkeys”.   How can we make a barbie inferno at home without drawing attention to ourselves?

For now, I am going along with it, dreaming of hamburger cupcakes and icy margheritas while the rain of Junuary pours outside and the old daffodils keel over and die.  I shall enjoy the practice of the holiday - if not the colonizing imperative - and plan on August in Australia as a time to ply the kids with Lamingtons and wallabies, parrots and pavlova, and set things to rights in my multi-national world view.

But #!@$!, I forgot, I am supposed to be South African?

Josh recently had his DNA tested with 23andMe and found that his paternal DNA is a long string that is definitively irish.  It has him pegged, right down to his earwax and tendency to freckle.  His maternal DNA is Western European.  I think that explains why he has just bought such a cool car.

In the absence of any information about my DNA (to heal my cultural anomy), I am considering going along with Wren's line and being from "out there" the Unidentified Foreign Object - certainly borne out by recent genealogical research.  We shall have Happy UFO day on July 4th and let Frost wave flags of his own devising as he wages war against plasticity and Minecraft threats.   And I shall be as choc-mint rhubarb as a I can with a pie and cupcakes and some margaritas to smooth it along.  

1 comment:

nautilus said...

Yes, we are a strange mix. If you go further back and talk about:
Zanzibar and the 1964 revolution;
the influence of colonial Africa
Nyasaland where your grandfather grew up;
German East Africa (Tanganyika) where two of your great-granfathers fought in the second WW.
Fintra in Ireland where your great-great grandfather came from as landed gentry.
Neath Abbey in Southern Wales from where your great-grandfather came to fight in the Boer War.
And that is just some of your mother's line! We are indeed a mix of history.