My Life in England
By Catherine Wayland
e remember our early lives in short visual, auditory, olfactory memory clips. For me, the sights, sounds and smells were of England. I was not a British citizen, but an American citizen. But I would not understand that clearly until I was seven years old. For the first six years of my life, everything I knew was the United Kingdom. People around me spoke with a British accent, I ate my favorite candy “Smarties”, I went to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, and I wore my purple galoshes on the always raining Saturday mornings. I played in beautiful gardens with goldfish ponds made of stone with green moss everywhere and, pretty purple flowers that looked like bells hanging upside down.
I was in school over in England as early as I can remember. I went to school and ballet. School was very serious business, and I befriended a teacher very early on. A woman named Mrs. Lawrence took a liking to me as we shared a mutual love of reading and writing. Mrs. Lawrence sent me A.A. Milne for years after I returned to America. I wore a beanie and a tie to school in winter and, a straw hat and pinafore in summer. I loved my pinafore dress it had the tiniest pink square checks all over, too many to count.
When I discussed with my friends at my schools in Buckinghamshire and Coventry in my own British accent that I was an American, they would deny it for me saying, “Of course you’re not a Yankee.” What was a Yankee? And whatever that was, it doesn’t sound like I wanted to be that. So for the time that I didn’t have to think about it, I didn’t. I just ate my lime marmalade and played in churchyards while my mother did brass rubbings inside. I visited the baby pigs being born in the farm next to us. I liked my life in England very much, it was the only life I had ever known. A week is a long time in the life of a young child. Five years is forever. As a family we spent a total of five years living in England.
And then all of a sudden after a big plane ride on a jumbo jet BOAC; I was an American living in America. Michigan, USA was nothing like Buckinghamshire and Coventry in England. Where was my rain? Where was the Queen? Where were the cows licking my car on Sundays? Where was my marmalade? Why were these people talking so different? What was snow? What was Halloween? What in heaven’s sake was 4th of July? Wasn’t that a fight between my precious England and my new, exciting America? And where where where where were my Smarties candies?
My father sensed his children’s anxiety and soon after arriving in America we took a tour of the capital in Washington, D.C. and the colonial town of Williamsburg, Virginia. Today I am so happy to be an American living in America. I have traveled this country back and forth so many times, eating the biggest Apple pie slice, visiting prairie dog farms, shoo’ing Buffalo off the roads of Yellowstone Park, riding Highway 1, sledding down 5th Avenue in winter in NYC – I love my homeland of the United States of America.
But I will never forget my life in England. Thank you for the memories dear Britain. Thank you for the good times of a little girl that was an American living in England and loved every minute of being British.
Buckingham Palace photo source: Wikipedia