Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Love and football

The irony of moving around from country to country as a kid is that it left me feeling like I had great experiences in various locations, but not much in the way of a strong sense of place.  As much as I love the way I grew up and wouldn't change it for anything, I'm always a little envious of people who Are From Somewhere - they grew up there, maybe they went away to college but they came back, they're settled in a place that is intimately familiar to them, they have family there. There is a physical place that is home to them and a part of them.

But when people ask me where I'm from, the answer isn't a place.  It's a description of the way I grew up.

I don't feel like I'm really from anywhere.  I was born in Cyprus, but I haven't been there since I was two years old and I don't remember it at all.  Greek was my first language, but I couldn't tell you a single word in Greek right now.  It's not where I'm from.  Same with pretty much every other place I lived.  I'm not from Venezuela.  I'm not from Israel. I'm not from India.

I loved India, and I would love to go back, but it wouldn't be the same without the people I experienced it with.  It's those people that feel like home to me, whether we're at the embassy compound playing pool between classes or whether we're in a generic hotel ballroom in Crystal City, Virginia. But I'm not from India.

Same with northern Virginia.  I lived there for a few years in elementary school and then later in high school for a short time, and it's been my parents' home base for 30 years.  I have great friends there, and I like going back.  I bought my plane tickets to take the kids to my parents' house for the annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Virginia with the family, which always makes me happy.  But I'm not from there.

In a weird twist, if there's any place that I associate with a familial home, it would be Detroit.  I never lived there - I lived in East Lansing, Michigan for a year when I was seven - but Detroit was where my grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins were.  When I flew back to Denver after my Grandpa Leo's funeral, it was the strangest feeling that I was leaving a place to which I felt incredibly strong ties, but which I didn't really ever have any cause to go back to.

In addition to the family ties to Detroit itself, my family has strong ties to the University of Michigan. Particularly its football team.  Both my parents graduated from there, as did uncles and aunts and cousins.  I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't know the words to Hail to the Victors, or when I didn't cheer along with my parents and brothers for the Maize and Blue. We were such superfans that when we were stationed in Israel, my dad got one of his buddies at an Israeli TV station to pull the satellite feed for the Rose Bowl when Michigan was in it, and let us come to the TV station to watch the game in the middle of the fucking night.  And I was happy to go.  It was Michigan football, after all.  Playing in the freaking Rose Bowl.  Of course we were going to be there.

Yet, for all my Michigan fandom, I've never been to a game in Michigan Stadium, a place of legend that holds 115,000 people and is the second largest stadium in the world.  Well, that all changes this weekend, when my wonderful, generous father is taking my brothers and me to Ann Arbor to see the Michigan-Northwestern game.  We will have quality time and recharge our familial batteries and, we're hoping, watch a rejuvenated Michigan team play balls-out and beat Northwestern.  I love being with my father.  I love being with my brothers. For all the physical distance between us, we feel incredibly connected.  I would do anything for them.  They are home to me.

So for a weekend, this place I have never been to, with its ties to football and family, will feel like home, because that's how it works for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment