What if you were born without a mother tongue?

What if you were born without a mother tongue? What if your mother was born without a mother tongue? And what about her mother? Probably also without a mother tongue. I belong to a line of women who were never entirely comfortable with the language or languages they were raised in or exposed to. We have been moved, shipped and travelled across borders, rivers, seas and oceans most often against our will.

And each place means a new language to acquire.

The old cultures are left behind, remaining in the past; or are held onto with a fearful death grip. It is in the way we hold a tea or coffee cup, the way we walk up a hill, the way we knead dough, the way we look at the stars at night. Some things are hard to shift or change, they are the little moments that get passed on.

Because we only had moments and our language was silence.

I feel the old stories in the arches of my feet, the muscles in the front of my neck, my knees, thighs and most of all my gut. I lay down in the silence and wait. I wait for the long line of untold stories to come out through my hands and type them into this great web of words, sounds and pictures.

And the chance of someone reading it is about as likely as my great grandmother coming back from the grave to tell me her story in a language I would understand.

But I write, because if I don’t then the story will be lost in time again, “like tears in the rain”.

So what does it mean to not have a mother tongue? It means that the language you grew up in was different from the language your mother grew up in. It means that all the feelings and memories connected to the words of a childhood language are lost and not passed on to the next.

Thus the line between mother and child are weak and easily severed.

And so I like to think that I come from a long line of travellers who left home with hardly a glance backwards…except in those silent moments of lost reflection when the feelings of the eons come flooding back.

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