Been thinking about all the people we meet every day and how we make so many assumptions about who they are, what they think, and most specifically, what they think of me (or you..). My friend from England was here for a few days (hence no posts) and I realized that those around me now have no knowledge of so much of who I was, and how it makes me who I am. Which means that they assume a lot of things based on only a fraction of the information. I also have forgotten much of it. When you move to a new country, or relocate far away from home in your own country, you get to reinvent yourself from the ground up. The great thing about that is you can just skim over or completely eliminate any part of your life you don’t want to remember or that you don’t want people to know about. But the flip side of that is that all the things you forget about, all the things that others see about you (looking in and at you from their perspective) can be useful to your new companions, colleagues, and close friends. I think it is easy to forget ourselves, all the things you did 20 years ago, but when someone else, someone who was there, arrives on scene and starts talking about what they remember, it changes the shape of the conversation, and it certainly changes people’s opinion and awareness of you. It validates that you existed some time in the past before they knew you.
For example. I lived in London and surrounding areas when I was 18 until I moved to Vancouver at 23. I moved there by myself and found a job at a thin and tall Italian deli in the middle of Soho, on Berwick Street, close to Madame Jo Jo’s and the Piano Bar. I met lots of interesting people, and hung out with a tonne of drag queens, gay guys during the Aids and HIV time of awareness and beginning of a death march. I worked with an American woman and old Italian people and hung out with the vegetable market blokes. I was broke, I chose smoking over eating (a pack of cigarettes lasts longer), I was slim and from the colonies, and I would tell people to “Have a Nice Day” and really mean it. I was a metric girl in an Imperial world, where I ended up living with a bunch of other Canadians in a house in Seven Sisters (Tottehnam), where there had been some riots (Broadwater Farm) only 8 months before. I moved there unwittingly (the tube station is called Seven Sisters and the landlord advertised that instead of Tottehnam, and well, you just don’t care when you are 18) and was mugged twice in one week. (note to self, yell Fire! instead of Help! or no one pays any attention). I ran after the guy shaking my fist and demanding that he come back and fight, even though this was before the martial arts years. It was my first experience living away from home, and I was open to new stimuli, although it will always piss me off that the people I lived with ate my bread and drank my milk. I lived my life and those around me experienced it at the same time. But I have only kept in touch with 2 or 3 people from those years so many of these stories, the observations of who I was during those times, are lost. Even to myself.
My dear friend Anna, who I hope will read this (!) is from some of that time in England. After working in the deli, where my love of cheese was awakened, I started working at a bridal wear company called Berketex. For those who know me, this is hilarious. Me, at a bridal wear company, selling gowns to girls (but I guess it is just as funny that I weighed and sold cheese and salami to people, and that I worked with mosquitoes, but I digress). I was 19 and the company asked if I would like to manage a concession in Chelmsford (where?). I said yes and moved to this town without seeing it (a pattern that continued in my life). When I got there I ended up living at some strange bus driver’s house (you did not draw the curtains properly, leave your door open when you are not home, don’t put anything on your bed) and thus ended up at the house where I met Anna. And 25 years later we find ourselves on a porch, on a farm, on an island outside of Stockholm, where the Cows escaped and greeted her on her first visit to me.
Her visit provided some context to my gift daughter, Ninni, who is thinking about moving to London for a few months. What do you mean you slept on the floor, without electricity for 3 weeks? How do you live without a refrigerator for 6 months, while living in the poshest part of town? And Anna said some lovely things about me to others, because she can do that, and we understood each other and appreciated how far we have come, how much we have changed, and how much we have stayed the same. It is a good feeling to reconnect to people who had such a profound effect and influence on your life. Sometimes those people should not visit you and should stay a memory, but sometimes having an old friend visit can breathe new life into the old souls, don’t you agree, dear Anna?