Getting there

Getting there

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Union Jack and I

When I was12 my family bought a new house, and I transferred to a new school. This was a very difficult transition for me. The kids at my old school were very much still children - we played at recess and climbed on the playground equipment. The kids at the new school were terribly sophisticated in comparison - they had begun dating and at recess were holding hands, not playing tetherball. I was hopelessly out of my depth, and desperately unhappy. There was only one saving grace at this new school - and his name was David.

David was in Grade 7 and I was in Grade 6. I thought he was the most perfect thing I'd ever known. He had sandy blonde hair. He played soccer. He had an unusual accent. And David was British. David's family had immigrated to Canada and had embraced the Canadian lifestyle but there was no hiding their British roots. I fell quite madly in love with David (as only a 12 year old can), but sadly it seemed these feelings were not returned. However, I decided that while I may not be able to have David, I could always have Britain.

I began to read everything I could about Britain. I read British history and became enchanted by the Tudors. Henry VIII was the perfect fool for love, while his daughter, Elizabeth I, was the exact opposite. I read about the Wars of the Roses, I read about the city of London, I read everything I could get my hands on. I started drinking tea whenever I could. I embraced all that was British - and I fell in love with the Union Jack. Something about that flag always made me smile, no matter how miserable my day.

In high school the Union Jack and I spent even more time together (although we went to the same high school David and I did not spend more time together, to my sorrow). When I was about 15 I heard the Sex Pistols for the first time, and Britain become even more deeply entrenched in me. I rapidly became all about the music and the bands and the culture. I embraced all that was punk and loud and, well, British. Punk made me realize I didn't have to be the prairie city girl wearing a rabbit fur jacket and mukluks - I could be different. I could be unique. The Union Jack was on my album covers, on my clothing, and on my mind.

By the time university rolled around David and I had become friends and we actually spent a fair bit of time together. My feelings for David had begun to cool, but I still carried that love for the Union Jack. When I met the man who eventually became my husband I was delighted when I was in his basement bedroom and hanging from his wall was a giant Union Jack. It seemed prophetic, as if the Union Jack was the sign I needed to know this man was the one for me.

For many years I carried that feeling about the Union Jack - never stated, just there, under the surface. I got married, moved all over the country, had a daughter...went about life. That love of all things British never went away, really, it just simmered. My path crossed David's occasionally, but we were no longer friends, and eventually we lost touch, as you do when you are going about your life.

A few years ago David and I reconnected through the wonder that is Facebook. I was now happily married with a young child and he was happily married with a new hobby farm just outside the city we had grown up in. We chatted about our current lives, and about the past. Turns out that during many of those years when I was secretly in love with David he'd been secretly in love with me (and there, my friends, is how our lives spin on the thin edge of a dime - had either of us voiced our feelings back then what would it have changed?). I thanked David for introducing me to the Union Jack. If it hadn't been for him I would have never discovered that I love British history, never found punk, and probably never become the person I have. It was all due to the unrequited love of a 12 year old for a British boy.

I recently reconnected with the Union Jack, too. When we moved into our new house I was unpacking a very old box and found my husband's Union Jack. My daughter spied it and asked if she could hang it in her room - how could I say no? It was almost like watching myself at the same age suddenly discovering that flag. Even more recently we travelled to London for the first time, and I was able to immerse myself in the culture and place I'd loved from afar for so long. While in London I found a handbag from Aspinal of London made of beautiful patent leather. It is, of course, loudly decorated with the Union Jack. I now carry my Union Jack on the outside, where everyone can see it, as well as hidden deep inside me.

I lost touch with David shortly after we reconnected. I think we both needed to finally reveal that secret to each other, and that is why we needed to reconnect. Once we had revealed it we knew that we each shared the same fond place in each other's memories, and we just kept on going with our lives. I think the Union Jack and I, though, will have a much closer lifelong connection. Every time I look at the flag on my daughter's wall I think of myself, almost exactly her age, discovering that the world was a far larger place than I'd ever realized and knowing I'd only seen a glimpse of it. Every time I see my Union Jack handbag I smile and think of that young adult who discovered punk and realized that the world around me just kept growing as I kept changing. I see the Union Jack and I think of how a single image can become tied to so many memories.

It's hard to believe a flag could have such a profound impact on one's life, isn't it? But sometimes we can't predict the things that will impact us the most or that we will carry with us the longest. It can be a person, a place...or even a flag.

No comments:

Post a Comment