Being in England holds weight in my past, just as it will determine my future.
An old thread of blood drives thru me, from my mother’s womb.
We cannot prove it, but for a photograph.
A man in a scout’s uniform with the name printed below.
His face gentle, his eyes heavy, his expression uncomfortable, even morose.
M. B. Dukes.
I don’t know exactly where he came from, but we know he was English.
Now, embark I on a journey to scale the land for knowledge of my ancestor?
And what shall I find?
Like an orphan faced with meeting distant relatives without need nor desire to know my face.
I am a product of men travelling on sailing ships from many corners of the world, to the shores of the then Malayan Archipelago, Sri Lanka, Singapore, carving new lives; some came with money, others with almost none.
At the turn of the century, my great-grandfather, M.B. Dukes, made his new life in a foreign tropical country, where he lived, loved, created memories, eventually passing on his surname to my grandfather, then my mother, bearing the name of Dukes.
I wonder indeed if I am descended from English dukes, or those who served them.
We are English, my family and I.
And we are Chinese, and we are Thai.
And I am Dutch, Portuguese, German, French, Spanish, as well.
All my ancestors left their homelands for trade, religion, to avoid plagues, and for war even.
I do not belong anywhere. My passport is Malaysian, and my grandmother was Bumiputera because she was of Portuguese Eurasian stock, a right given during Tunku Abdul Rahman’s time, passing it down to my father, who then passed it down to my sisters and I, but what weight does that carry now in my country?
My Dutch and British ancestors were protestant, my grandparents and parents Catholic. My Chinese ancestors who settled in Penang, were they Buddhist or Taoist?
I belong nowhere, and Everywhere.
The colonialists hack through my blood, and I am filled with an unsatisfied hunger. If I do not keep moving forward, I am drowned in my own ocean of thoughts.
As they conquered, so must I.
My compulsion to own, to dominate, to rule? Blame it on my DNA.
I must always keep discovering, captain my ship, my crew; a pack of wolves. And sometimes their foreign blood divides them and I am torn inside.
I cannot think with my heart, for it has too many voices.
I must think like a Queen, decisive and set on one course of direction, or risk having none.
Now I am in England, and I lay claim to the land by virtue of having walked here through the footsteps of my great-grandfather. And his parents before him. And theirs before them.
I may never know where my mother’s maiden name comes from in this country – will this nation know me? Will they welcome me?
I walked today in snow 11 inches thick. One part of me felt like a child, new to the view, wanting to build a snowman, and throw snowballs, as naughty children do.
And curiously, another part of me knew this place, had seen this many times before. This – was normal.
Perhaps my great-grandfather was looking through my hazel eyes, and saw the land he once called home. Maybe the sense of peace I felt was his. He never did go back to England. He was buried in Malaysia.
And maybe now he can say hello again –
Hello England. Welcome me home.
[view my previous blog posts here: http://www.sfastage.com/blog/ ]
2017 © Stephanie Van Driesen