Monday, October 5, 2009

More ramblings on "home"

Yesterday comments from ldw, motherissues, Essie the Accidental Mommy, and Mama Drama Times Two got me to thinking even more about this idea of "home"and the role of culture. Mama Drama noted how funny it is that a place can "feed your soul" and I definitely agree with that. I struggle mightily at times with being a SAHM these days mostly because I miss my work as a teacher and educator on a broader scale. Yet I wouldn't have it any other way and am so lucky to have the option to do this right now both because I enjoy it and my children need me to be here for them. I cannot imagine living as easily as a SAHM while living in my "old" world where most of my friends were academics and I was constantly running into my students and former students. Yet, being away from all that and in a place and space that feels so right and makes me feel at peace and at home makes all the difference in the world. I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be and doing what I am supposed to be doing at this point in time. All of that "feeds my soul" and much of it is due to being "home." I just didn't realize how much this place did that for me but I can certainly feel it despite the challenges :-) Of course, it isn't just the place itself that does that since we cannot separate place from people, experiences, memories, etc.

For all the time I lived East whenever I said "home" I generally meant South Texas. I remember when I realized I had lived away from for a longer period than I had lived at "home." I still couldn't bring myself to call the East Coast home. I loved many aspects of my life there, especially in Boston, and I certainly had all of my friends and community there. It was home, especially once the children came. But it wasn't home. In my work with college students I often taught courses about culture and ethnicity and one of the activities we did was having students uncover the key aspects of their cultural identity. In setting up that activity I always found myself describing my "Texan" culture as a significant part of who I was and I am not what anyone might consider a serious "Texan" by many standards. I certainly don't fit many of the general criteria that would characterize someone from Texas as imagined in the minds in and out of Texas. If I were I probably wouldn't have left but I don't think I have ever had much of that so-called "Texas pride." I have some, of course, otherwise I couldn't call myself a Texan! :-)

Maybe that is why I don't come across as a Texan when in Texas or as an East Coaster when on the East Coast. When I left for college I felt like I was someone else trapped in a Texan's body and I just couldn't relate to all that seemed to be a big part of being Texan. I know that sounds like a huge generalization and it is a generalization but one that I think is true of many places. We are products of the multiple cultures that influence us and we knowingly or unknowingly accept or reject elements of each of these cultures that still influence us no matter how "individual" we believe ourselves to be. We aren't growing up in a vacuum after all. So I internalized so many aspects of this "Texan" culture even as I was rejecting it but it took a 25 year trip away and back for me to begin to make sense of it and yes, be changed by it so there is a little bit of the the East Coaster/New Englander in me after all.

As I began raising my children in Boston which is their first home since they were all born there and they have important elements of their life there I began to recognize experiences they might never have if we stayed there. It may have been a bit nostalgic but I also knew there were things we couldn't do living in the city where we did. Even my kids notice it now. They notice that the people are "different" here and "friendlier" here even as we notice there aren't other families like ours here. They notice that kids are "nicer" to them here even as kids tell them they think that it is impossible to have 2 moms (you can imagine what happens when mine say they have 3 and start talking about birthmoms too!) They notice that people (including us) aren't rushing around they way they did in Boston and they notice that some things are really slow here. Then we start to notice the differences and miss the beautiful fall colors and of course, they miss playing in the snow!

So, yes, it is great to be "back" and "home" in Texas and when we moved here a part of me felt like I could exhale. And Essie, I think you may be on to something that explains my current fixation on the skies...the sky certainly does seem bigger in Texas than it did in Boston. :-)


ldw said...

I left home too as soon as I could to venture out and see the world. I vowed I was only coming back to visit but never to live. I never liked the small-town feeling where I grew up. I know this is possible in any state but I related it to the whole state. Then I got my kids and I wanted them to be close to familiar things so we stayed. Then when I was pregnant, I remembered how excited and important it was that my daughter be a native Texan, I can't imagine it any other way. I chose San Antonio because it is a big city with a small town feel and that fits us just right. Basically I guess I am saying that I have lived in many states and loved something about each of them. I miss things about each of them and look forward to the day I can travel again. But I have learned over the years that there really is no place like home.

ldw said...

Oh and the skies ARE bigger in Texas! We have no tall trees to block the view! (unless you are in the east but that's a whole nother land)

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Ooooh I love that San Antonio river area!
I think I like the city because it is closed in, to me it feels secure. To others it might feel intimidating or overwhelming but that is how I feel about wide open spaces. Interesting realization!

SocialWrkr24/7 said...

Oh you are making me miss Texas!! I lived there for a relatively short period of time - but I think Texas has a way of seeping into you. I lived in Houston for a year when I was a baby, "the Valley" for two years in middle school and then my parents moved back there when I was in college. My father still lives near San Antonio.... I love Texas.

BT said...

I wonder what role age plays in all of this. Or maybe total time spent away.

I grew up in southern Virginia (Georgia before that). Left home at 18 to attend college and just kept heading farther north and west til I ended up here in the Canadian prairies. I am now 44, have been away from my Virginia home for 26 years, and no one in my family even lives in Virginia anymore. But for the past 4 years, I have been longing increasingly intensely for a return to Virginia or the SE US. This longing is hard describe in its intensity. It just feels like such a need.

Dia por Dia said...

SocialWrkr24/7--The VALLEY! I was born and raised there-as far south as you can go! My folks and some siblings still live there.

BT--I think age has a part in this. I felt that longing too with such an intensity. In fact on the drive to TX when we moved the whole family, despite 5 kids (had an extra!), pets, and a van-load of stuff driving cross-country I could feel the pull in my body as we made our way closer. We had glorious weather the whole way and as we pulled into our new hometown (which isn't where I had lived before) it started to POUR and the clouds got dark. I cried tears of joy and couldn't explain it so just said I must be tired! Mexican tradition says that is because my umbilical cord was buried here so as I got closer the "pull" was that intense. Maybe there's something to that!

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