By Will Jones
I’ve always hated this particular English saying: “Same difference, innit”. How can something possibly be the same but a difference? It’s a contradiction in terms, a fool’s answer to a question deemed impossible to figure out. It’s plain stupid as far as I’m concerned. And as for ‘innit’, this idle bastardization of the phrase isn’t it has become a slang used nationally by the youth of my fair isle. It’s as synonymous as the great Canadian eh, a useless punctuation at the end of a sentence and I can assure you I’ll never use either, hopefully!
But same difference is, for all its ridiculousness, probably an apt way of describing family, whether they be English, Canadian, French, Russian, Martian or even American.
You see, on my big vacation to the motherland, I’ve traveled from the heady delights of London up north to visit my family in the heart of England; and, while the landscape, customs, food, accents, beer (lovely warm flat beer) — almost everything is a vast change from what I’ve grown used to inCanada— family is the same. The same as I remember and also the same as I see in the households ofHaliburtonCounty.
For a start, there are the grandmas. Since being blessed by the arrival of Little Z, my lovely wife and I have seen a new and sometimes frightening side to our respective mothers. They have turned from the dependable caregivers that nurtured us through our childhoods into crazy grinning monsters who feed on the smiles and chuckles of their grandson. If they see him regularly they remain relatively passive but (and here’s where moving to Canada wasn’t a good idea) if deprived of grandchild smiles they become enraged and seek vengeance on those limiting their smile habit, demanding ever more face time with said grandchild. This is fine, you might think, but when two grandmas are vying for the same grandson things can get really ugly.
Thankfully, grandpas come in useful here. Now, grandpas aren’t usually useful to a grandson until he’s old enough to go fishing or drink his first pint, but just by being around they deflect some of the grandma love (the baby addiction) by needing to be fed and watered themselves. This gives the parents of the grandchild in question the vital seconds required to escape and recharge their baby before the next onslaught.
Then there are brothers, sisters and siblings in-law. These folk are not so needy when it comes to children. In fact they often have a gaggle of their own to cope with and so are not best pleased when left holding someone else’s baby. They do have their uses though. The men folk make good temporary partners to visit the local pub with, often jumping at the chance to get out of the house and imbibe a pint (of lovely flat warm beer) or two.
Sisters, I have to admit, are often saddled with the job of feeding us, this being their usual role as mum to their own. However, to use them purely as kitchen slaves would be cruel and somewhat stupid because they can turn nasty and that isn’t a pleasant sight.
And that brings me to nephews and nieces. Oh how fantastic and utterly infuriating they are, all at the same time. “Uncle William what’sCanadalike?”
“Well, youngSamuel,Canadais this amazing land where bears and wolves run free, where trout leap from every stream, where the stars are so bright…” Hold on a minute, where did he go? He got bored with your story, I’m told by his mum, my sister, who is grinning wryly.
“But you told me he was so excited that I was coming home,” I blurt out.
“He was, but I guess the reality of you was a little less fantastic than the idea he had of his great Canada-conquering uncle,” she cackles.
Oww! I’m shot down in flames, put in my place, kicked into touch, whatever metaphor you care to mention, in no uncertain terms. But I guess that’s what families are for, no matter where you live or how far and wide you travel.
They are your bedrock and reality check. Whether English, Canadian, French, Russian, Martian or even American, it’s the same difference, innit!