Confession: My whole life I have felt like I wouldn't end up HERE, living just a few miles from where I spent most of my childhood. I always, always thought I would give in to my wanderlust and go someplace else to live. Even though I married my high school sweetheart, I still did not see myself settling down in the Metro Detroit area. But of course life doesn't always unfold the way we think it will, and marriage and children do tend to complicate things. I'm not the only person I need to think about anymore, so what is best for our family as a whole has to be the top priority.
My mom and I moved far away, to Arizona, when I was a kid. There were aspects that were difficult, but looking back I see that time of my life as a positive experience. True, I missed my family back in Michigan tremendously, and I imagine it was even harder for my mom to be away from her parents, siblings, and the neighborhood and friends she had known all her life. But it was an adventure. We had to meet new people, depend on the kindness of strangers, and adjust to a new climate.
Besides our big move to Arizona, we never stayed put for very long, and year after year I was the new kid at school. This taught me how to make friends and acclimate to new environments. It wasn't always easy, but the way I grew up made me the person I am today. As an adult, I can appreciate that. But as a kid I didn't always see the positive side of things. I was mad jealous of my friends who had known each other since kindergarten. I wanted roots.
Now that I'm a mom, I feel torn. There is still a really big part of me that doesn't want to be here, in southeast Michigan. There are times that I hate it, just literally hate it. I know, in retrospect, that going all the way across the country to live was an integral part of my childhood that I wouldn't change if I could. I know, also, that moving frequently taught me a resilience that I would not have otherwise learned. I know that if we moved (and families move every day, to other cities, states, and even countries...) my kids would be okay. They might be angry at first but they'd get over it and they'd adjust, and probably someday they'd be able to look back and realize it was a good thing.
My wanderlust and my yearning for roots are at war in my heart and mind. Where I live is not a horrible place, not at all. I just struggle to be happy and satisfied with where I am.
A couple weeks ago I went for a long walk to the library, which is over three miles each way. On the way back I had a thought. I had recently spent some time with my great aunt and uncle (my grandfather's brother), and my uncle had treated my mom and me to stories from his childhood. He talked about his grandparents' farm, the streets where his aunts and uncles lived, and the plot of family land his father used as a huge garden, coming in from the city on weekends to care for it. These things he was telling us about, they were all in the city where I now live.
As I walked, I let it sink in. For generations, dating back into the 1800s, my family has lived right here in the city that I call home. I was walking where my great-great grandparents once had a farm, where my grandpa came to visit as a child, and where my grandmother grew up. I walked past the place where her school once stood, and the church where my grandparents were married. I thought about what the area might have looked like back then, with fewer houses and dirt roads. I wondered if any of the houses I was looking at were around back then.
I realized that the roots that I've always wanted are right here, in the ground on which I walk and drive all the time.
When my great-great grandfather's widowed father decided to move his family across the ocean in the mid-1800s, from Switzerland to the United States, for some reason he chose to settle HERE. Maybe he already had family in the area, maybe he knew someone else, I'll probably never know.
Decades later, in the late 1920s, my grandmother's Canadian father decided to move his family from Detroit to HERE. Again, I'll probably never know his reasons. But somehow the stars aligned for his daughter to meet the grandson of a local farmer, for them to fall in love, get married, and have a family together. And now, here I am, raising my family where the seed of theirs was first planted.
My great-uncle had also mentioned that there was a cemetery not far from me where many of our ancestors have been laid to rest. I have lived here for over five years and never before had thought about my ancestors being in this cemetery, which I have driven past countless times. On my walk home from the library, I decided to stop and have a look.
I walked through the small cemetery, studying each tombstone, and marveling as the wheels turned and clicked in my mind. The origins of the names of many local streets were suddenly apparent, and I thought about how these families must have once lived where street signs now stand, bearing their names.
Reverently, I walked up and down each row, and again and again I saw names that I knew belonged to my long-deceased family members. I took pictures of their tombstones and wished I had photographs to match to each name. I thought about my grandmother's beloved hobby of genealogy, which had always interested me as well, but now I felt a sudden deeper connection, and a renewed desire to learn more about my family's history.
It's strange how things happen sometimes, how something minor, like deciding to take a long walk, can really change your perspective.
|The tomb of my great-great grandparents.|
P.S. Are you into genealogy? If so, what do you think are the best websites out there? There are so many, and it's hard to say if paying membership fees is worth it or not.