Thursday, December 4, 2014

Finding Home

by Susan

De tanto despedirme se me secaron las raíces y debí generar otras que, a falta de un lugar geográfico donde afincarse, lo han hecho en la memoria; . . .

                                                -Isabel Allende

From saying good-bye so often my roots have dried up, and I have had to grow others, which, lacking a geography to sink into, have taken hold in my memory. 

                                                -Isabel Allende

Sometimes I envy those who have a place they call home, a city they are proud to call theirs. Growing up in Iran in the 60s and 70s, there was always the talk around my house of immigrating to the United States, which kept us from digging our roots deep.  There was always a hesitation to decorate too much, anchor things to the walls too permanently.  When you live in a two thousand year old monarchy, change seems improbable.  You read about kings and dynasties that have lasted for hundreds of years at a time. You never think that you may actually witness the fall of an empire.

But it happened and we did emigrate in 1978, months before the Islamic Revolution.   We went from living in a six-bedroom house where each of us had our own full bathroom to the spare bedroom of my cousin’s house in Houston, where we kept our clothes in paper grocery bags.  My mother thought she was just waiting it out.  Who would have thought that thirty-five years later she would still be waiting? 

I became a chameleon.  I learned the language and spoke it in a way that did not signal my foreignness too much.  I paid attention to the customs and the mannerisms, learned to get inside the head of the average American. I married, got a college degree, a job and then moved to Venezuela.  By some miracle, I learned Spanish as well and learned my way around yet another place.  I really thought that was for good.  I was willing to put down roots, have kids, raise them and totally embrace a culture that was neither my own nor one I had been exiled to.  But the world and its problems caught up with me again and after thirteen years I found myself back in Texas.  For the past decade or so I have lived in Austin.  For now, this is where I am calling home.  

Last week I was visiting my daughter in Cali, Colombia.  As we went around with friends who spoke lovingly of their town and its sights, I wondered where my home was.  For a minute, I felt sorry for myself.  But as I reflected, I realized that I am actually blessed in my ability to find a home wherever I live.  I may not belong to one place in particular, but I can feel myself being from any place.  I count myself lucky in that I see no one as a stranger and all people can be my people.  I rather live with the ambiguity of my ethnic identity than with the limitation of defining myself as one thing or another based on the accident of my birth or choices made by others.  My home is wherever I can make memories. 

Sometimes I envy those who have a place they call home, a city they are proud to call theirs. But then I remember they are my neighbors.

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