Friday, March 26, 2010

the changeling

I knew I wanted to leave the town where I grew up as soon as possible. I believe that dawning came to me sometime during middle school, right about the time I started to see myself as a separate entity from my family. I knew I would finish high school and leave. I knew I would go somewhere that required me to get on plane, that had a different climate, required different clothes and different lingo. I knew I would set foot in this new place and thrive, and that then I would likely move again. I was very young.

As fate would have it, I did just that. And then I did it again and again. I moved and moved. I discovered new landscapes and people, and ultimately discovered new languages. I was often the newcomer, and usually the foreigner.

When I moved back to the United States three years ago, I believe that in my subconscious I had this intangible idea that I would somehow finally be returning home. I would finally no longer be the foreigner and the oddity. I would magically feel the call of the roots I had left behind, which would wind up my legs and blossom, planting me finally on this earth somewhere. I would entwine myself with my surroundings, I would become part of the landscape and entrench myself in the ground. I would suddenly breath a sigh of relief as I felt the wind behind my back cease, as I began to finally know the geography of my own life as familiar and comforting, instead of as this brightly lit, fluttering, elusive thing, like a butterfly. My life would become that warm cup of tea, something to sip slowly, that doesn't offer unexpected surprises, but only warmth and the feeling of home.

Oh how wrong I was. If these past three years back on the soil which should by all definitions be called my homeland have taught me anything, it has been that I am the same creature I have always been. A creature without a home, a leaf floating on a torrent. It matters not what language I am speaking or dreaming in, I am a changeling. How could I have been so mistaken about the very nature of who I am? How could I have believed that age would somehow mellow me and make me ripe to settle. As I look around and see so many who seem to possess something that I do not, the ability to find their home, to plant their feet into the ground and be rooted, I wonder what intangible thing I have always been missing. What is the gene I was born without? Where am I leaving and where am I going?

Today I think there may be only one North Star in my life, one anchor and one home in the form of my husband. My husband who feels at home nowhere and a foreigner everywhere, who is eternally kind and generous and eternally the odd man out. Except when he is with me. Then we are together in our torrent. We are akin to one another in ways I never understood until now, until we have lived in the country of my birth. How could I have known so many years ago in Mexico how incredibly fortuitous it was for us to meet in that boarding house and to become each other's homes, homes forever moving and transforming, all while remaining uncannily the same.


Jennifer said...

You can never go home. (Didn't you know that?)

But at least you've got a soul mate to keep you company on your travels.

Betsy said...

It's uncanny how often you manage to articulate a thought or an essence that has been gestating in the back of my mind.

I can completely empathize with this post. Have so often wondered / worried if by staying away from the US I'm exacerbating my estrangement from my own roots / culture. But deep inside I know that if I moved back that I'd come to the same conclusion that you have.

I don't know what I'd do without my husband...

Betsy said...

I can't stop thinking about this post. Seems we both might be suffering from a case of adult-onset TCK-ness!?

Funny thing is that I think I often feel this more acutely than my boys do. Maybe because they've never known anything else?

What about your sons? From the few posts you've written about them it sounds like they've settled into their "new" culture very well.

You're all lucky you have each other to share your multi-lingual / multi-cultural inside jokes with! :-)

jennifer said...

Hi Betsy-
Glad to hear you relate. And as for my boys, they are just a big open palette. While I think I've always felt this way, being the age I am makes it more acute, probably because I keep thinking I should have somehow "settled down" by now. My boys, lucky for them, haven't had time to get here yet! And my husband is just more comfortable in his own skin than I am, I think...