I've been thinking a lot today about roots. In hyper-regionalist Wales, the questions of where you come from, where you belong, and what you are, are ever-present and all important. These are questions that are underlined for me by the fact that I am married to someone whose religion emphasises family connections. These things expose the weakness in my composition.
I was born in Texas, my parents were born in Texas, and my grandparents were born in Texas -- that is what I know. That is about all I know. I know history that can be collected from living memory. If you were to ask me or my brother where our family comes from, we would tell you Ireland not necessarily because it's true (although, I know that at least one family member came from Northern Ireland) but because it sounds cool to us and there isn't a great deal of evidence to the contrary.
I was born in Texas; I was raised in four cities: Austin, Irving, Houston, and Bloomington. That resulted in five different homes and six different schools before I reached 18 years old. And in adulthood, I have yet to live in the same home for more than two years. I bounce. I have always bounced. There are positives and negatives.
My dad and I are both the sort of people who enjoy hearing ourselves say things that we think are philosophical, so we talked a lot in the months that he and I would drive to work together, before Rachel and I left for Wales. We talked on several occasions about these questions of who and what and where.
Before my family left Austin, when I was 4 years old, my father discussed the move with his pastor, who offered a gardening analogy: Sometimes you can move a tree and it will take root and flourish; sometimes, though, it just won't root. My dad sometimes feels that he might have made one move too many, that Minnesota holds no strong claim to his soul other than the fact that it is where he and his wife happen to have jobs and where his youngest son still lives and where his oldest son keeps coming back to.
His hope for me, and my belief and hope for myself, back in those days of darting along the 494, was that Wales would become my place -- this would be the place where I would take root and flourish, where I would feel solidity and belonging.
A lifetime of bouncing, though, makes me impatient. As I understand more subtleties, I feel more isolated. These people, so firmly rooted in this place, struggle to comprehend and I struggle to convey. When I say something, people hear it through a sort of filter created by their impressions of what an American is, what an American means when he or she says something, how an American thinks, and what an American doesn't know. It's a problem made acute by my inability to communicate dynamically in this language I've chosen to throw so much money and time at. I stutter things out and people guess at what I'm trying to say, using the American filter as a guide.
Maybe I'm one of those trees that just won't root. Maybe this isn't the right soil. Maybe I just need to give it time. How long does it take roots to grow? I can't remember ever feeling more frustrated. People will say this is all just homesickness, but where is home?