ALL THINGS ENGLISH
I’ve decided, as I embark on this new adventure, that I’m done with doing what my parents and family ask of me; I’ve obeyed for long enough now, even when I didn’t 100% agree. I toed the line and followed the advice.
I’ve learnt from the receiving end of judgement that I have no right to it and it seems my new personalised way of thinking freaks a lot of people out, men especially. Which I’m grateful for at the moment, I’m hoping it will keep trouble at bay. A fresh start and all.
My sister likes to call me ‘safe’ but I would be quick to argue that it’s, considerably, as a result of her making it her life’s mission to shock the shit out of our very middle-eastern, super conservative mother. Thereby making anything I did scrutinised with the same intensity.
Akia is 6 years older than me and to say that she hit the floor running the day she finished school would be an understatement. She chose the night that she got her results to announce, to our entire family, that she secretly applied to a university overseas and had been accepted.
This was bad enough but then she creamed the cake by coming out. My mother loved Leila until Akia confessed that she wouldn’t be leaving without her. My mother had gone on about how close they were until my aunt explained. Then...well then she had to be escorted to her bedroom to lie down, so severe was her shock.
My younger brother, Tariq, and I disappeared into my bedroom to avoid the pending shit storm but the celebration came to a sharp halt following Aki’s announcements. Family members literally hauled ass out and soon we were confronted by our bewildered father.
He couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about (Bless him and his very liberal upbringing.) Aunty Soula snuck in and gave him the rundown on what was considered unacceptable behaviour within the adult female Arab community; it was both hilarious and cringe-worthy! I was equally impressed with and curious about my aunt’s knowledge.
Dad was adopted out of a Persian orphanage by an American couple and had lived all over the world with them. (I LOVE my American grandparents and am so grateful for them!) My parents met while my dad was doing his post-grad in Egypt and they’ve been together ever since.
He travelled a lot when we were younger but there was always an aunt or two around so Akia, Tariq and I grew up surrounded by laughter and strange traditions. We lived for trips to America and were lucky enough to spend time in some amazing countries because of dad’s archaeology.
Of the three children, I’m the only one that didn’t get a traditional name; my dad claims it’s because mom named Akia so it was his turn next. Tariq used to tease me that it was because our mother wanted a son and when I arrived she wasn’t bothered with my name. The jackass, if only he knew!
So anyway that’s how I landed up with Amarelia. Of all the western names or even Eastern names, he could have gone for…he chose Spanish Amarelia. He loves to tell that I was born under a full moon and therefore was his child of the moon.
I swore Tariq to secrecy (the childhood dirt I’d collected on him probably helped) and all through school I managed to get away with Lia Wolfe. Mom had a word with my class teacher every first day of the year. Tariq says it’s her penance for allowing our father to name anything, especially a child.
Now though, as I filled in the paperwork, I knew I’d have to come clean. My stupid passport had my full name on, Amarelia Said Wolfe, thanks for helping dad! Everyone made the same joke (why did Ameralia say wolf?) ha de ha. Begrudgingly, I filled in the lines and handed my stack of papers over to the school bursar who doubled up as HR it seemed.
She was a very orange, very chatty woman with a thick scouse accent. I was directed to where I’d be living for the next few weeks until my transfer into permanent digs and I practically skipped along the tree-lined path. Everything looked like a fairy tale, I felt as though I was on a film set.
The university was so beautiful and I was so grateful that I got picked to do my post-grad here. Callen came to my University in Madrid and gave a few guest lectures. I instantly knew that I wanted to absorb all the memory out of his head.
He’s the leading professor in England on all things mystical and the only reason my mother FINALLY agreed to allow me to apply was my father telling her about Prof Callen’s extensive research into Kabbala and the Surah’s. Both of which my mother poured over every chance she got.
Professor Callen only accepted a maximum of 3 students a year as researchers. The essay I had to write to get considered took me three months and five do-overs before it felt ready. When the response letter finally arrived I was too nervous to open it and almost retched when dad teared up.
Our house was a flurry of motion for weeks after my response. My mother went into prep overdrive. You’d swear I was moving to Siberia, not England. Tariq had to book me a ticket to visit during the break to calm her down. Suddenly she cared?
Akia sent a parcel from her and my grandparents before I left; she had relocated permanently to the States two years before, with Leila, and was so happy that our mother had come around... mostly.
I was warned my room would be small so Tariq agreed to stash the XL suitcases my mother forced on me at his place. I was excited to buy a new wardrobe. Most of the clothes I wore in Spain (where we’d been living for the past 5 years) wouldn’t cut it in England’s climate.
Once I’d transferred my worldly possessions into my tiny closet I made my way straight to the closest high street. I needed an Argos and a Poundland, ASAP. I also needed British clothing stores. I’ve always loved how the English dress. You could be a knee-high boot, short skirt wearing kick-ass chick one day and a romantic floral princess the next.
I got lost trying to find my way around the campus when I got back and realised that instead of shopping maybe I should have spent my first afternoon getting to know the grounds better.