Erin See

There’s something I think most of us are afraid of: turning into our parents. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that no matter how hard we try, bits and pieces of us will always be them. It’s unavoidable. Unfortunately, we can’t decide which pieces we take from them. This leads to me:


Sitting, listening to a man tell me a story. He has a thick country accent and his words twang in a rhythm I know all too well from growing up in Texas. When I open my mouth to respond, an accent mirroring his own decorates my words, and good lord, all I hear is my father.


Time jump, to me, 13, standing next to my dad as he talks to our dog trainer. My father is originally from New York and as far american accents go, has virtually none. Barney, however, is from the backcountry of Tennessee and has an accent so thick molasses is jealous of it. As they talk, my dad begins developing a lilt to his words, subtle at first but growing in intensity. Soon he comes to the point where, if someone joined the conversation they would think he too is from the backcountry of Tennessee. It’s something that mortified me and my sister growing up. What might this other person think? That he’s making fun of them? Mocking an accent they have no control over? The worst part is that he has no idea that he’s doing it so when my sister and I nudge him saying “Dad, cut it out,” he genuinely does not understand what it is he needs to stop doing. It doesn’t only happen with country accents either, no. He’s been Canadian, Mexican, Italian, Cuban, the list goes on and gets definitively worse. I’m afraid one day someone will notice and find it decidedly not funny.


But I digress: back to me, sitting in my chair growing red as a cherry tomato, wondering if I keep the accent going or drop it and try not to slip back into the drawl as we talk more. 


I made the decision. Flipping back the bland accent I normally speak in and trying far too hard to keep it from becoming colored again with this man’s cadence.


I’m now conscious to the utmost degree when talking to anyone with an accent but it still doesn’t stop the small slips of their accent being sputtered back at them in my speech. Will one day I feel a small tug on my sleeve and hear the hiss of “Mom, stop that ” while not understanding the “that” to which they refer? Surely. Because eventually we all turn into our parents and this is a piece of me given by my father that I can’t quite seem to avoid.