Sunday, October 27, 2013

Searching for Home: My Gypsy Heart

I was not one raised on fairy tales. My earliest childhood memory of reading is of my mother reading Charlotte's Web to my brother, sister, and I when I was merely 5. My desire to roam is certainly not attributable to the stories I was raised on, nor my later readings. Much of my early education outside of the public school system I can attribute to my grandmother, Zona. Whether it was information she'd gathered through experience, education (which to be honest was far more diverse than that of a typical American student today), or through her own endeavors to broader her horizons she is the one that encouraged me to learn. 

While both my grandmother and my mother were housewives by common definition, neither discouraged education and exploration. Perhaps it was a dream of both to travel and experience the world. My mother listens with a smile as I recount my travels or experiences. My grandmother has always been diligent in uncovering her ancestry as well as that of my grandfather's, her late husband. It almost seems a way of saying, "We are more than what you remember. We are more than what you see. We have history an ocean away from here, and you should know it. Find it. I've done what I can. It's your turn." 

So while one part of my family traces it's roots to England, the Normans, and Eric the Red, the other, my biological father's side, traces it's roots to historically royal blood in Norway. Our quest to reclaim our bastardized, common, far flung claim to a long forgotten throne has yet to be realized and never will be. All of that withstanding, there is always a memory, though not my own, of home. I wonder at times if this is the same for all "young" Americans. Perhaps many of those who still have family in Europe have dreams of a country not our own but hopes that it one day could be. After all, what is more American than the belief that nothing is beyond our reach? 

This is what astounds me most about having stood on the soil of my forefathers... the instantaneous feeling of coming home. I've mentioned it before, but the only time I've ever felt truly at home were the moments when I stood on English and Scottish soil. Obviously, there is the chance that I simply reveled in the countryside and embraced it as what I knew of home in Iowa. Still, there was a feeling of peace I've never felt anywhere in my life, not even in the US. The only other two places I've felt absolutely alone, yet at peace, were Belfast, Ireland and Montreal, Canada. I would place the onus on the lack of language barrier, but it was more than that. I felt at home before speaking or interacting. 

When I speak to others about my desire to leave, it's often mistakenly construed as an insult to my country of birth. It's as if there is some unspoken belief that when you don't feel you belong it is somehow your fault. I fit in to many places in the United States. The only thing I can describe it as is "passing". I pass as an American. I have some of the same beliefs that our country was founded on. I am indescribably Nordic or English in appearance, not quite this and not quite that, but obviously pale... until I tan my skin and color the grey from my hair to match the darkness of my mother's. Then I look somehow foreign, but still passable. I've heard everything from French to Italian to Jewish, and a few times, Eurasian. My Norman pale is generally most common. My home, however, can only be described as wandering. 

Romani? Perhaps, though, hair color not withstanding, which type of traveler is undecided. Gypsy for sure. While some might consider the term derogatory, I personally find it welcoming. Would I willingly leave my "home" and work jobs in various locations to guarantee my shelter, sure. Do I have a traveling trade, most definitely not. I'm simply seeking home. Maybe home truly is where the heart is. While I love my family, and feel briefly at home when we are all together, I don't truly feel like I belong where I am. Perhaps I am more than what I remember. I am more than what I see. I have history far from here, and I should know it.

Oddly, as I write this, my friend David (truly Irish), experienced his very young daughter's enthusiasm for the fire department. I simply said, "Pretty sure this is some Irish tendency to honor firefighters and policeman. You can suppress it all you like, but eventually one of your kids will join a house or a force or the priesthood. Sorry... that's just how it goes. It's like the guarantee that, as Norman-English and Scandinavian one of my family will take on alcoholism as a sport or farming as an occupation." My family has done both. I like my cocktails, and though I don't farm, I envision a life where I can grow tomatoes, zucchini, and basil year round. In the US I think that makes me a Californian, but my heart tells me that's not it. 

As I gaze upon my impending release from parental responsibility I wonder where I'll go. Obviously my family will be welcomed no matter where I land. Shall I do a gradual move east? Will I change countries and maintain continents? Is the move to another continent inevitable? Is leaving the continent the absolute goal? I don't know at the moment. Right now I only know where my heart is, and aside from my immediate family, it is not here. I used to look to the west as a means of settling, whether it be settling down or settling in general. As 40 approaches I find myself looking east, perhaps with the realization that I am not finished exploring and I am not ready to move toward the ultimate finish, but push toward the ultimate fulfillment... home. 

I'm not seeking a fairy tale. I'm not looking for Prince Charming. My desire to travel is not based upon a story written to draw the reader in with dreams of a better time or a better world. I'm simply seeking something I can't quite grasp. It's there somewhere, if only I can find what it is and where it resides. 

Where are you at home? Is your home merely where your family is or do you feel drawn elsewhere? 

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