The day before yesterday a young man approached the Reference Desk asking for books that would teach him Gaelic. I found him some books and we chatted for a bit. He mentioned that he wanted to learn more about his Irish heritage. I asked if he planned on visiting Ireland soon. “Someday,” he said. I totally understood his need to get in touch with his roots, because I have felt it too.
Later that evening I went to my friend’s house for dinner. She thought that we should do something to honor the changing of the season, so she did this ritual before dinner in which she lit a candle and we thanked our ancestors. She was very eloquent in the way she spoke about this but I can’t really recall all that she said because in my head I was going, “WTF universe! I can’t believe she is talking about this!”
Ever since I went to Paris I’ve had this insatiable need to learn about my genetic roots. When I was in France I, weirdly, felt like I belonged there. In a way I have never felt anywhere before. I felt a deep connection. Rafael looked around at the people and said, “Monica, you totally look French.” And, indeed, when I looked around I could see that also. Even the short time I was there I felt like I understood myself a bit better. My quirky way of being seemed to make sense in France.
It is possible for your genes, for your body, to feel a sense of connection to a place? I don’t know how else to describe it.
The thing is, I don’t have a strong connection to my cultural heritage at all. My step-dad was Irish and that Irish pride runs super deep with Irish Americans. Crazy deep. But this isn’t really the case so much with people of French descent living in America. In fact, I almost feel weird telling myself that I am of French descent. I want to also attach “Canadian” to it because my ancestors migrated to Canada from France in the 1600′s. It seems super far-removed to say that I am French in any way. I know very little about the history there, and I don’t know how to speak French at all (I’m learning though!). Yet I still felt a connection to the place when I was there.
So there she was, my friend at dinner, talking about connecting with our ancestors. And it was awesome. And so, in my head, I thanked Pierre Boucher, my ancestor who migrated from France to Quebec with his father in 1635, for being my ancestor, for providing me with these genes.