I wish I knew more about myself so I could pass it on to you, but the truth is that I don’t know who I am. I was born in 1970 in a small town in northern England. I was born of a half-Danish-half-English mother and an English father. That much I know. But, as for who my mother was and how I developed into an adult, I know virtually nothing. How can that be? I was conscious throughout my childhood, wasn’t I? But I was only three-quarters conscious of myself. What about the quarter of me which is Danish? Where was he all my life?
I saw only one side to my mother growing up – her English side. She kept her Danish half a closely-guarded secret. Why, I don’t really know. I didn’t even have a Danish side of my identity to keep as a secret. My mother never once taught me Danish. She never spoke any Danish to her Danish mother in front of me. My Danish grandmother never tried to teach me Danish and never spoke Danish to me. I strongly suspect that my mother warned her mother not to ‘interfere’.
I remember the first time I was told my grandmother was from Denmark. It was one cold Christmas as we – the Day family – walked down the road to my grandparents for Christmas tea. I was about 7 at the time and I remember being filled with awe and wonder. How fantastic it was to have a grandmother from Scandinavia – a place where magic lived and where Father Christmas had his home. And how wonderful that I was part of a special family. Growing up during Christmas was always a special time. I was going to find out at some point that my grandmother was Danish, since she never hid it and was proud to be a Dane married to an Englishman.
It’s obvious to me now why I was always “scatter-brained”. I was never able to fully develop ideas because I was only being raised in part and not in total. At the time I thought it was my fault when I messed up. But how could I expect to learn if I was taught only 75% of what I needed to know?
My family home growing up was void of anything Danish or Scandinavian. Yes, I discovered my mother’s accordion one day. It was hidden away and she never played it for us except once or twice. My mother stopped being Danish when she married my father. Her last ever visit to Denmark was when she was courting my father as a young woman – more than 50 years ago. So if she stopped being Danish then she was not going to show me how to live both Danish and English. In saying all this my mother was kind and loving, always there for me, always supportive. I never went without anything – except for a Danish identity.