A letter to my younger self by Ursula Moeller


Ah, little she-bear. Would it have been different for you at that difficult time in 1947? Different if I could have told you that eventually you would fit in, feel a sense of belonging, feel true-blue American? That youʼd learn soon enough to change your innocent babushka-style wearing of your head scarf, learn to drape it far back on your head mimicking the other girls? That soon you would lose you British accent and vocabulary and start sounding more like your friends? That finally Mum would let you dump your scuffed British sandals for the ubiquitous saddle shoes the other girls wore and eventually a buy you a pair of penny loafers?
Even then in your loneliness you gathered strength from connections with new friends, an unlikely trio. First and foremost Granny, Mumʼs mother, she who had mailed the family wartime care packages from the US to England. How you had looked forward to them. You demanded the cooling skin that formed on the top of the Royal Vanilla Pudding. Your tongue caressed it before swallowing. Granny, who made you feel special and grownup at age nine, took you seriously with a combination of love and loving discipline, told you that your posture was perfect and your glossy auburn hair braided in neat plaits was lovely.
Then there was Shorty, hired by Dad to plant corn in the empty lot behind our house, who always took time out to chat. Resting a worn boot on his spade, he spun
American yarns that fascinated you, took time to answer your many questions, never seemed hurried.
! Third was the neighborʼs full-sized collie, Lady, who wandered into the yard as though she sensed your losses and lay quietly to be petted for as long as you needed. Lying full length alongside her, you admired her knowing brown eyes and thrust your hands deep in her soft fur to fill your empty places. When you were given puppy Nico a year later, your love for him recalled this early connection with Lady.
I remember how seriously you took your list of British words versus American ones tacked up on your closet door: lorry/truck, sweets/candies, torch/flashlight. Next to it was your list of homonyms: bear/bare, nose/knows, see/sea. You added new ones with delight, and both lists grew to many pages. Seems like it was the start of your life- long interest in words and their meaning.
! In the long run your transition time made you value the old as well as the new, helped you figure out who you were to become and to like that person.

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