I grew up in a tiny, rural New England town in close proximity to Canada. So close, in fact, that we often walked across the border as children as though we were crossing the street. The towns on the other side of the border closely resembled their American counterparts save the official language.
It was English v Francais.
The area where I grew up was bordered by a very small French Canadian outpost, one of the only concentrations outside of Quebec. If you traveled 30 minutes in any direction away from the epicenter, you encountered the usual English Canadians that most of the world is familiar with. The “oot” and “a-boot” crowd, that we have all so lovingly made fun of over the years. (Thank you https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_City_Television for all the laughs you provided over the years!)
I found myself an English speaking kid growing up in a very French-Canadian, Roman Catholic town; bearing an incredibly Irish last name with Protestant roots. I moved into the Valley from one of the larger satellite towns as a young girl, extremely perplexed by the bizarre religious and familial bonds that all of the kids seemed to share. I was a very intelligent, witty, artistic and talented kid. I could have been the next Oprah, though, and everyone in town would have still looked down upon me because I’d arrived in town as A) A Protestant (Poor girl, she’s misguided, it’s not her fault, but we still have to hold it against her to teach her parents a lesson… shame …) and B) a child descended of anything but a Franco-American heritage that only spoke English. Those were really the only two strikes you could have against you in this area, but if there might possibly be a third that could ensure your condemnation to solitary; it would most certainly be red hair. [See blog title for confirmation that my childhood was one, long, living hell … ]
There were a handful of other redheads in town. This included a few people that had managed to abscond with most of their wits into adulthood, and three other kids aside from me between K-12. I still remember thinking that I [we] were coursed to forever stand-out, and would never be able to just blend in with the crowd. I grew up thinking that I was almost “cute” but that I’d never be pretty or beautiful like other women with “normal” complexions and hair coloring.
I had a couple of crushes in high school but never a real boyfriend. I had no idea that the world viewed redheads as exotic until I was in my mid-twenties, living in the NYC Metro area.
I won’t lie. I felt oddly vindicated.
Also, if I’d known the kind of “power” I held as a “ginger” back in those days, man I would have made the most of it. To this day I still can’t believe that many people out there thing that we’re pure evil. So much for education and freedom of information thanks to the world wide web. Superstition is very much alive and well. even in the Western World. It honestly blows my mind.
Every once in a while I meet someone who things that I can hex or curse people; depending upon the person and how they interact with me, I may or may or may not play along. A redheaded witch you want? A redheaded witch you will have. It’s incredible to see people that are supposed to be Ivy League educated believe that somehow I have effected another’s life for the worse. I know I shouldn’t do it, but it’s so easy that sometimes I just cannot pass up the opportunity for a good laugh.
We are currently living through a unique health crisis. I am a type 1 diabetic, and therefore a part of the “susceptible” group of people with a compromised immune system. I try to use common sense and continue doing what needs to be done – drop off packages at the Post Office, go to the Pharmacy, grab a few necessities here and there; buy I swear that I’m the receiving a lot more “looks” right now than I ever have before.
Man, we really have issues in this country, don’t we?
I’m going back to Binging Netflix and drinking wine. I hope you are all safe, healthy and remaining relatively happy during this time of containment. It’s not much fun, but if it keeps you illness-free, I think it’s worth the effort.
Be vigilant, don’t panic unnecessarily and try not to hold all the things your family is doing right now to you annoy you against them when this is all over.