Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Roots: The Need for Place

As a child, we moved every two years. Strangely, even though that hasn't been true for me since 1980, I still define myself by this fact. Growing up, I didn't really feel like I had a home. I'd barely get settled somewhere, make friends, etc. and we would be moved again. The military does that to families. We always moved two weeks before Christmas, which didn't help matters any, either.

As an adult, things and places mean deeply to me. I surround myself with family heirlooms, hang on to sentimental items, protect my home, and resist change. I also look longingly at the one place where I feel like I have roots--the family property out of state.

The property mostly doesn't belong to us anymore. We have one small corner of it but the rest was sold off years ago. Still, my great grandfather bought the area around 1900 and my grandma was born there. My family visited every summer (to the piece which was still in the family) because it is on the river and became a summer vacation spot. It is near where my grandma currently lives so we visit her and go to the cabin. That's how I spent many summers, at least for a week or so each year.

Next week, I'll return. The cabin now belongs to my mom and her sister. I recently found out that my aunt doesn't want me to inherit the property because I live out of state and would not be able to care for it. The idea of this property going out of the family is hard for me. My aunt has no children and neither do I. We are the end of the line for our family since I'm an only child. There is nobody to keep the place.

I don't live near it but I always thought the place would be mine. I was the only grandchild, after all. The place was roots--a constant which would be in my life forever. Now I forsee a day when it won't be there, for me or for anyone in our family. It's weird how a place I've hardly seen as an adult can mean so much to me.

I define myself based on that location. It is the center, a place I can point to and say "I belong." The problem is, maybe I don't belong there. It's a hard thing to face, the loss of a center, a defining place. I feel a bit adrift. I think I need to think about how I define myself more closely. I've discovered, if you tie yourself to places, it can lead to problems.

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