Have you always wanted to find out your true heritage? Do you think you know? I thought I knew until I went to Ancestry.com and took their test. The results were quite a surprise!
With a last name like Svenson, blond hair and blue eyes, I have always been proud of my Swedish heritage. When someone called me “the Swedish Bombshell”, it was my favorite nickname ever! My father’s side of the family was Swedish. His personality was charming, kind, and graceful. He was like tennis player Matts Wilander, the quiet, dignified Grand Slam Champion you probably only sort of remember.
Conversely, my mom’s side was the Irish side. You know the loud type with a good story to tell? Think more like John McEnroe: funny, hot tempered, the poster child for misbehavior and poor decorum on the court. I’m not saying that was my Mom, but her family, well, I could see the feisty ancestral resemblance.
I told myself, I’m more Swedish than Irish. I’m more Wilander than McEnroe. I mean, I’m not a loud hothead (despite what my husband says). I’m like a Swede – always under control – the cool-headed assassin you never hear coming. Those of you who know me agree with me, right? Right?!
On good days I like to think that I look a little like my idol, Christy Brinkley, who’s was surely a Swede like me (she’s not). Sure I have freckles, but so does Pippy Longstocking. That impulsive anger that bubbles up and pops out with such ease, that’s not the Irish McEnroe in me, that’s the justified, rational meting out of fair and true Scandinavian justice! And, ok, maybe I color my hair even lighter than it was when I was a baby. That’s just a style choice. There are dishwater blondes in Sweden, right? Right?! Of course there are. Phew, dissonance gone. I’m Swedish again.
Embracing my heritage…
My sister in law (who’s half Swedish) and I took Swedish language classes in Andersonville’s Swedish Village. Oh, what fun we had! Since we saw ourselves as the America’s poster children for Sweden, we just knew we’d find the language easy. Heck, it’s our mother tongue! Who cares if the Swedish language has nine vowels with seventeen different sounds and a pitch accent? It should be instinctive for us. Right? Right?!
Immersing into my culture…
I shopped at the Hannah Andersson store and drank glug on the holidays. I embraced smorgasbords and added marzipan to my homemade pastries. I even started to eat herring. And when I had the opportunity to play tennis with Mats Wilander, I jumped at the chance! Of course he’d fall in love with me. (He only didn’t because he’s married).
The DNA test…a.k.a. the “Do Not Assume” test…
With my parents still alive, I wanted us all to enter the Ancestry.com DNA test spit marathon (yes, they test your saliva). Tip, don’t do the test right after you have coffee like I did. Sorry, gross! https://www.ancestry.com/dna/.
I wanted to see just how Swedish I really was. I was guessing somewhere between 30-60%. My Dad is Swedish. My mom is Irish, Scottish, and Belgian, and since the Vikings conquered vast swathes of Britain and the Normans conquered northern France, before also invading Britain, her side would probably contribute some Scandinavian as well. My bragging to my husband about my Swedish ancestry (he thought I acted Irish) would finally be vindicated. The possibility that this silly little test was a risk to my entire self-identity did not cross my pretty little Swedish mind.
The results are in….
I checked my email often, and after eight weeks the results finally arrived. When I opened them up….I couldn’t believe my eyes! My first thought was, how can I hide these results from my husband? He’ll never let me forget this. Turns out, I am just 1% Scandinavian! Along with Western Europe, I’m mostly Irish! Say what??? I’m Swedish dammit! I’m the Swedish Bombshell. Aren’t I? Apparently not.
This is not a disaster…
This was, well, not a disaster, but a mind-bending change for me. I immediately looked up Christy Brinkley on Wikipedia and, to my great relief, she’s part Irish as well! Phew. I knew there was a strong resemblance between us! We’re probably cousins.
I always knew…
However, I think, in the back of my mind, I always knew. I just didn’t want to admit it. I mean, I kind of fit the stereotype. I’m like my Mom’s family. I’m a dreamer. I love to tell exaggerated stories, laugh, sing and be merry. Maybe I’m even a little loud and opinionated. Sure I’ve been known to drink a pint or two of Guinness on occasion.
Coming to terms with the news…
So I was embracing the wrong heritage all along. Come to think of it, I do love watching John McEnroe get into fights with the umpires, and he was a hell of a lot better player than Wilander ever was. I don’t like marzipan, herring is gross, Hanna Andersson is overpriced and kitschy, glug gives me a nasty hangover, and Swedish sounds like the Muppet meatball chef.
I now have a story to tell…
Now, I truly know what was always in my heart. I love corned beef and cabbage. I am in great company with Oscar Wilde, C.S. Lewis, Edmund Burke, Michael Flatley, U2, W.B. Yeats, and St. Patrick. I think I’ll start taking Irish dancing lessons.
I’ve started writing limericks:
“There once was a girl from Sweden,
Turns out she’s in the Irish legion.
So she drank lots of Glug
Right out of the Jug
To drive away all of her demons”
I’m going over to McGonagall’s to start learning more about my heritage. Slainte forever baby!
By Johanna Svenson Croll, Savvy Chic