Sunday, November 26, 2006

Strolling Down Broad Street

We went for a walk today. Down Broad Street [for anyone familiar with Columbus] towards Franklin Park. It was a beautiful, mild, autumn afternoon. Piles of faded leaves, painstakingly raked into huge mounds, just waiting for a big wind. Which didn't come. It was positively mellow.

I have a thing about big, beautiful, older houses. I have no desire to own one, with the attendant taxes and remodelling headaches, but I do love to look and daydream. And along Broad Street there was plenty to look at. Palatial older homes with beautifully landscaped gardens. Gardens that have seen generations of children with their nannies and their pets; barbeques in summer; the sound of tennis parties; maybe even the occasional wedding.

The imagined continuity is what mostly makes me wistful. I had it growing up and took it for granted. My children never had it. Each time Uncle Sam reassigned us, we packed everything up and moved, and tried to turn it into an adventure. Each time we left part of us behind - a house that had become home, schools and teachers that had become familiar, friends we'd grown to love, a garden we had made our own, a little niche in a community.............and in each new place we started out as nobodies, knowing nobody, known by nobody, without friends. But each time we made it work.

Only now, with the clarity of hindsight, does the enormity of what we lost hit me. How do my children answer the perfectly normal question "Where are you from?" Being from Ireland is what anchors me. When I'm sad I find solace in Irish music. My children tease me about the Ireland I love. They say it no longer exists, except in my head. That may be partially true, but the rocks don't change, the sky doesn't change, the Cliffs of Moher don't change, the feeling that your ancestors breathed this same air doesn't change. And because of choices I made my children don't have that. I gave birth to five children half a world away from where their roots are . And right now that's making me sad.

How did I get from strolling past strangers' houses to here? The same meandering mental processes perhaps, that make those closest to me roll their eyes, or require me to make my point in five words or less. Houses represent stability, comfort, home; the wide and wild variety of manifestations of the nesting instinct.


Anonymous said...

Just remember, they have a different memory and a different thing that anchors them and makes them feel "home." Weird but true.

Stomper Girl said...

I'm trying to think a Pollyanna thought for you and this is what I came up with: a home like that can be "broken" and yours wasn't, so your kids are probably more stable than you might think :-)

Becky in FL said...

Molly, I agree, it is a loss. There are advangates, but I'm guessing that the balance of gain and loss will be different for each child.

My family moved several times when I was young. First realized the difference when I was in high school with kids that had known each other as children. I thought: That wouldn't let you get away with much. I had enjoyed the opportunity to "reinvent" myself in each new place.

Francesca said...

It is such an interesting question, and one I ask myself about my children. We are, even without the influence of Uncle Sam, pretty itinerant. I wonder where my children will be from? I long to live in the place that I will always live. I do not know where that will be.

How would your children answer the questions? What would they say is their rock? Or rocks? New York is where I am from, and while it is sometimes fun to be "from" there, my personal anchors are not geographical.

Here via the NaBloPoMo randomizer.

Becky in FL said...

Stuntmother's comment reminded me of something. Sometimes a family has a place they go repeatedly for vacations, and that becomes like a home, a "rock", as she says. We always went to the coast of Maine. Ideally it would be like Elliot Porter's "Summer Island" -- such a sweet read about his family's Maine island retreat -- but in reality we were usually camping.