Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Reminiscing and rambling

I was talking to some coworkers last week and the topic of conversation turned to childhood. Specifically, the question asked was, "what was the most difficult thing you had to deal with as a kid?"

My childhood was the best of anyone I was talking to, by far. Everyone else had suffered from parents who were alcoholics, who had abandoned them, who were divorced, whom they never saw because they were poor and the parents worked multiple jobs.

It was a serious eye opener. I've always been aware of how fortunate my brothers and I were growing up, with parents that were together and happy and supportive of us and each other. We got to live all over the world and see incredible places and things. We got a top-notch education not just through our experiences, but because we lived in countries where the diplomatic schools were superb (Israel and India in particular). 

When it was my "turn" to talk, it was hard to come up with something that didn't sound petty.  The best I could do was that all of the moving around left me without a strong sense of place.  There isn't really anywhere in the world that truly feels like home to me, because I had so many homes.

I was born in Cyprus, a half a world away from where I am now.  For most people, the place where they were born is someplace familiar.  But I haven't been back to Cyprus since we left when I was 2. 

Same with Venezuela.  I have vivid memories of the house we lived in, our yard, the mango tree, the wall behind the house where my parents let Josh and me paint with watercolors.  I could draw the interior layout of the house if you asked me to.  I remember the park and the barrio down the road.  I remember my school.  One day I was dicking around on Google maps and was able to find the house we lived in.

But I haven't been there since I was 6 years old.

Same with Israel and India.  Those were majorly formative years for me -- middle school and high school, first kisses and boyfriends and going through puberty and seeing truly incredible parts of the world.  Those places are a part of me.  I could give you directions around Tel Aviv or New Delhi, draw a map of my schools and my neighborhoods and where we hung out.  But I haven't been back to Israel since we left in 1984, and I haven't been back to India since Christmas break my first year of college (New Year's of 1989).

Most people I know have a hometown.  Somewhere they can return to (if they don't still live there) where they can sort of return to childhood, see the people and places they grew up with, feel a sense of home where they can recharge their batteries. 

I wouldn't change the way I grew up for anything.  But as I wrote yesterday (can you tell I'm doing a lot of reminiscing?), the wonderful friendships and experiences I've had are so disparate in time and place that sometimes it feels hard to hold on to them.

So I think.  And I go to reunions.  And I try to preserve memories by writing.

Are you far away from the people and places you grew up with?  Do you want to go back, or are you glad for the distance?  Should I just quit my mawkish ramblings and be grateful for my quasi-Rockwellian upbringing?


  1. Andrew McKay10:12 AM

    I've been talking about exactly this for weeks now. No hometown; my family is mine. Kid due in a month, and I feel bad that he won't get to experience everything we did; but lucky that he gets to stay put and grow roots.

    until we move to Hawaii, that is.

  2. Andrew, I didn't know you had a baby coming! Congratulations! And I know exactly what you mean about wishing my kids could experience what I did -- I can tell them about it, but I fear it will be met with, "what-EVER, mom!!"