Jenny is the alter-ego I will be leaving behind soon when I return to the United States, and someone I will only have to put up with when we return to visit. I’m wondering if I’ll miss her, but I think not. When you live in a foreign country, even those who are closest to you never really have any idea who on earth you are. Many Italians’ ideas about America come from television and pop culture, so you wind either being the punching bag for George Bush’s foreign policy or the idol of your kids’ friends. It doesn’t matter that I grew up in Florida, as opposed to California… the kids are convinced that I come from the same places they’ve seen on O.C., or even worse, Baywatch! There is also a portion of Italians, usually hidden away high in the mountains, that don’t quite know where America is anyway. Sure, they’ve heard of it, but the geography isn’t all that clear. I’ve had more than one person ask me if we travel to America by train.
You are eternally the foreigner, and for someone like me that has always thrived on being alone, as I wrote here, for a while it was more than OK to be Jenny, and to be a cartoon caricature for whatever American meant to the person standing in front of me. But now that I’m finally preparing to leave, I realize the joy I feel at returning to a place where I feel like I have some roots, and where everyone knows me as Jennifer, or even better, as Jenn, my favorite term of endearment...
One of the things that I brought with me here and that I will be bringing with me when I return home are my grandmother’s handmade quilts. I was reminded of these when I read this post in bleeding espresso. My grandmother, whose own term of endearment was Mema, grew up in a small Texas town, and adored handmade quilts.
This quilt is made of swatches of clothing that belonged to my mother and her two sisters as they were growing up in the forties:
This quilt, which my grandmother gave me when I left home at 17 to go to college, is made of the dresses I wore as a little girl:
This is my oldest quilt, worn around the edges and in need of restoring:
I've started to think of the piles of stuff I have to pack or get rid of as the Jenny pile and the Jennifer pile. I'm leaving the Jenny pile here. The Jennifer pile, where these quilts are folded up, is coming with me.