When I was a very, very little girl, so little that my mind was super-malleable and everything that I was told I believed, and so little that I still though that the half-hour break in TV programming between Sesame Street and Playschool was endlessly long, something happened to shape my thinking forever.
It wasn’t a bad thing, this isn’t some kind of true-confessional “this-happened-to-me” time, just…a thing. A thing that, because I was so little and my mind so malleable I can’t shake.
Some people came to visit.
I don’t remember their names, and as they’ve never visited since I don’t think I’ll bother dredging them up. There weren’t small children for me to play with so they didn’t interest me too greatly, and if there was a man he in my memory he’s dissolved into the background. There was a woman though, and because I remember looking at the photo in the family album for many years after their non-eventful visit I remember that she had black hair and a blue dress and glasses, and looked a little like a friend of ours, but she wasn’t.
But I remember the accent. Oh the accent! She spoke in a voice that was rich and beautiful, a voice I’d only ever heard on TV before, and because of that voice I wanted to sit on her knee and fall into her and listen to everything she said, because she was obviously famous and wonderful and exciting, and her sheer presence in my house made me, by default, famous, wonderful and exciting as well.
You’ve got to understand, you see, that I’d never heard people talk like that down here in Tasmania. Down here everybody used the same slightly nasally whine and flat, nasally vowels that I’d heard every day, the same stretched-out voice that I had. Not the Blue-dress lady though. She was beautiful. She was from the Television!
I was four. You have to forgive me when I say I was incredibly disappointed when my Mum told me that she wasn’t from the Television at all. She didn’t live on Sesame Street. Sesame Street wasn’t real. The Blue-dress lady was from Canada.
Not America. Canada.
Sesame Street Isn’t Real.
Ten years or more happened before I ever heard that accent again in real life, and by that time I’d got pretty solid on the truth: Sesame Street Isn’t Real. Not America. Canada.
Okay, here’s the true-confessions part. Please don’t laugh. Oh, okay, but laugh quietly, all right?
It was only a couple of years ago that I realized that America-Isn’t-Real-Not-Sesame-Street-Canada had taken root in my brain for more people than just the Blue-dress lady. I’d somehow started applying it to everyone I met with a TV accent. They couldn’t be American. TV isn’t real. I worked for a year with a lovely “Canadian” lady, and…ouch-this-hurts-to-admit…it wasn’t until I reconnected with her via Facebook and read her blog that I realized she wasn’t Canadian at all.
Nor were the nice people who came to the Wednesday night meetings. Nor are the lovely harpist girl and her family, or Susie Finkbeiner.
America IS real. I KNOW this. I am an intelligent woman. I read books. I study history. I watch documentaries, and I do know enough about the US of A to know that yes, it DOES exist. Except…
Except sometimes old thoughts are hard to break, especially when they happen when you’re very young, or particularly vulnerable.
I’m butting up against a few thoughts at the moment, more serious cases when I’ve believed something that someone’s said and then applied it to every area of my life. So here’s my thought of the day:
Not Everything You Believe Is Necessarily True. Sometimes you need other people to help you get some perspective. After all, 350 million Americans can’t all be wrong…
Well, I WAS waiting to wish you a Happy American Birthday sometime after midnight (here)…because I am a late night person and stay up that late. 😉
I’m so glad that you believe in me and my over-the-top nation. Although, if someone confuses me for Canadian, that’s alright by me.
Happy Birthday, my dear friend. Much love.
Thanks Suze!! 🙂 Love back to you my friend.
Haha – It’s so funny what random things our little kid brains absorb and how they shape our thoughts in the future!
Also, “Not Everything You Believe Is Necessarily True. Sometimes you need other people to help you get some perspective.” Truer words have never been spoken.
Yeah it’s a bit scary as a parent as well, not knowing how our well-intentioned words will come back at us. Grace, grace and more grace!
Oh I’m sure!!
You are not alone. I was just a regular, country town boy who grew up with trying to understand why my shoes didn’t launch me skyward like Astroboy’s did. I remember taking commercials FAR too seriously, and then thinking all my toys were broken – because in the ads, my toys could talk AND fire rockets.
Apparently this was long before the obligatory disclaimer “90% of what happens in this ad only happens in your imagination. Please do not attempt to converse with your toy. You will appear mental.”
Anywho – the biggest turning point on this journey, was when I was 8. Yes, oh-my-goodness-you-really-should-have-figued-that-out-by-then …8. I was listening to the radio, when the DJ announced that the next song was to be Cher’s – turn back time. The irony of the song title is not lost on me. Suddenly the veil was lifted and I realised -for the first time…that the DJ wasn’t singing all the songs himself.
It was a sad sad day for music.
Joel this cracked me up so much!! I can so see you as that earnest little boy! Oh man, I’m glad I’m not the only crazy kid out there 🙂
I once received a great tip when travelling. If you meet a North American, but you don’t know whether they are from Canada or the USA, always ask them if they are Canadian.
A Canadian will be so pleased you guessed. And if they are from the USA, they will be so pleased to enlighten you of the fact that they will not take the slightest offense.
In both cases, they are quite justifiably proud of their respective countries, and everyone wins.
Francis that is really quite smart! If I was anywhere other than the USA I’d write that one on the back of my eyelids.
Wonderful post, and I’m very much looking forward to your trip here to America to see what interesting observations take place…
thanks Erica! You know the funniest thing I’m realising about America is this – that all the movies and TV shows I’ve watched for so many years really are based on American reality. That might sound dumb to an American who can finely slice through all the glitz and glam and the real world, but…things like yellow school buses, school cafeterias, shops, streets, big red fire hydrants, squirrels…they’re all stuff of TV to me. I’m expecting that I’ll find the States to be a) nothing like I imagined and b) just like I imagined all at the same time 🙂