My fetal memories, my introduction to language, my first physical relationship to the Earth’s magnetic pull, the air I first screamed to inhale, the food I tasted through my mother’s lactation, the sounds, scents, climate that first touched me was across an ocean from where I am now. It may not mean much, except that I hear in French, I don’t dream in it. But if I encounter it, it pulls at me. I buy French green beans at the supermarket, haricot vert, and I long for how they should taste from my grandmother’s garden, freshly picked from the vine, pickled in a jar, steamed, snapping when raw. Nothing about me is particularly French, except that half of me is French. The language and the food is what aligns with my soul.
I may just be a nostalgic fool.
My name is French. So I don’t get to turn away ever, it was never anglo-ized as just Emily, because that is an entirely different name in France. I am hardly an immigrant, but I recognize the echo of contradictions that frame being an immigrant. The sense of choosing, but a choice that can’t ever be truly made because what is gained and what is lost can’t be reconciled, quantified, described enough. The longing for somewhere else, that exists in memories or as ghosts. Paradoxically there is too much to say and too little. I have fragments to hold, rare flashes of taste space time. A sensual legacy that doesn’t translate. That is what it is to belong to two places, a sensual legacy of longing.