Sunday, April 22, 2007
This prompt makes me wonder, how deeply rooted am I? I think I have been in too many homes and too many cities to have deep roots in any one place. I don't like to move but I can pull up and move fairly efficiently, although it seems that with each move a few more things don't get unpacked.
I moved to Chicago for graduate school in 1983 and have been here ever since. I carried here only what my mother and I could check onto a plane, around 3 bags apiece and an extra charge for my bicycle which was boxed. I never planned on staying but I guess those roots caught me after all, the roots being marriage and then children. I've now lived here for over half my life but feel as if Seattle is my home town, although I only lived there for 12+ years, from 3 to 16 years old. I can also claim my city of birth and high school, Los Angeles, although I have no affection for the place.
I think I have always lived more by the adage, "home is where you hang your hat." I developed an attachment to things and not to places. Home is where I have my "stuff." Like the French meaning of the word souvenir, my memories and souvenirs overlap. The roof over my head may change but I will remember the origin of the t-shirt I wore yesterday, bought two years ago near Aspen to combat hypothermia after white water rafting. Or the rock I own that looks as if it has two cartoon eyes looking at me. That got lost in a move some years ago and recently reappeared in a box. I am glad to have it on my desk again. I still have the same bicycle I took with me to graduate school, which was bought for me when I was 12 years old. It has a number of nicks and the frame is slightly bent from several mishaps growing up. It also has the sticker from the bike shop I bought it at (long gone) and an expired California bike permit from the 1980's. That bike has a lot of miles on it.
My husband is at times amazed that I can still tell him where I got a miscellaneous item or who gave it to us. I don't remember names well, but I do remember gifts and purchases.
Of course, I also cherish my photographs although as they become more and more digitized, they also become more portable. Now some of my roots are on the internet in storage. I hope this means they are less ephemeral than hard copy prints.
As I get older, I have become more interested in another kind of roots. As the generations ahead of me have been passing away, I become more aware that their stories are being lost. I have not been all that effectual at preserving what yet remains but I think often how sad it will be when that legacy is gone. My questions range from the simple--what was my family name before it was changed on Ellis Island--to the more complex--how did my various relatives manage to make their way to the United States? How was it for them making a new life here? I have also become the informal historian for my in-laws since I have a liking for research and (obviously) writing.
Roots have as many twists and knots as those of an old tree. Mine will be ever more interesting the longer I live. We'll have to compare in 30 or 40 years.