Growing up, my mum and I were at odds a lot. The older I get the more I understand why – we are so very, very similar. Quirky, independent, dreaming girls with birthdays just two days apart, we often clashed on everything, especially if we weren’t personally happy which tended to be the case with my mum. She sacrificed a lot of herself to live a way in which often wasn’t her choice. And because of the friction and her unhappiness, I wanted nothing to do with being Danish. I was my fathers girl and therefor was French, French, French! When I moved to England I was English, English, English! And in New Zealand I became one of the surfer boys I hung out with all the time. I was anything but Danish!
In my early twenties, my mother began to come and visit me in my flat, staying over for a night at time. We’d walk the city, go shopping, giggle over dinner. These visits were sometimes awkward and exhausting but they were slowly putting us together.
One day she told me she was going to leave my father. This did not crush me but made me very happy. Oh, I loved both my parents and they’re both fantastic people but as a married couple do so poorly. They’re very opposite, with different ideas about life and lifestyle and a ten year age difference had started to show itself (my mother wanted to go go go and my father wanted to settle in). I supported her leaving him and her move far away to be with her family. Little did I know at the time it would be the best thing for her.
Being on her own made her come into her own. That lighthearted, charming woman finally emerged once again. She began to create so many things, ran her own business, worked at a winery in which she became very snobby (but oh so charming) about wine! Her style changed, her hair became flirty. She became this amazing woman that I started to connect to.
It was around this time that I started growing out of a life that didn’t suit me; the corporate American Dream Life. As I began to become myself again I started to see how much like my mother I was; the same smile, the same hair, the same quirky mannerisms, the same heart that could break so easily but everyone thought was impenetrable. We even sit and tilt out head the same and snort when we find something terrible funny.
And we are funny; we crack each other up like you wouldn’t believe.
She’s a bit spacey and says things that make no sense to anyone except in her head. Perfect example when I once rang her for cooking instructions:
Me: How much water do I put in?
Her: Oh, I don’t care
Me: Four cups?
Her: Oh no! Not that much!
This conversation could have easily been turned around for this is also me. She randomly says things and you have no idea where they came from but she has a map laid out in her head. This is me. She can buy the weirdest, saddest thing from a second hand shop and make it fabulous in 2.3 seconds. This is not me. But now I am learning from her.
Embracing her and the Danish life I often tried to run away from has put me at ease in a way I couldn’t have anticipated. It’s made me connect to something I didn’t even know I needed to connect to. I thought I was just Alex – girl who sprung from nowhere! And now I see my past, my history, my culture and say, “Ah then, I am not alone.”
I contacted my cousins just outside of Copenhagen to let them know I was coming in January. Oh how you look like your mother! They kept saying. Oh, how I see that now and smile instead of cringe.
Don’t get me wrong; France still has my heart and my style in home tends to be more French Chic than teak and art. I want to live in France in several years and my French is still better than my Danish. But right now, I’m a Danish Girl, with my blonde hair, strange sense of humour, and adoration of dressing up.
I share this not as an ode to my mother but because sometimes I think it is so easy to forget, not pay attention to or run away from where we come from – especially if it has a negative association to us. But I think it’s so important to connect to something as the individual way of life has got to go. There is no glory to being alone. There is no medal you get for doing everything by yourself or acting as though you just fell out of a sky and need no one. I tried that for many years and perhaps I seemed powerful and together but truthfully, I was always a little sad and misplaced.
But now, connecting to parts I once tried so hard to disconnect from, is helping me to not only create my home but myself.