I've only once gone back to the place where my father came from. I was very young, certainly less than ten years old, and I remember standing on a windy hilltop, maybe visiting a cemetery, looking down at something that wasn't a town at all, but fields and water. I remember wondering when we were going to go to my father's old house. We never did.
Because in some respects, he could never go back at all. His home town, Azua, in the Basque region of Álava, Spain, was flooded purposefully to become a reservoir. Sort of like a real-life Atlantis.
It's a lovely reservoir. But I can only imagine the sense of loss, the inability to go back, even if you never plan to return physically to the place where you grew up; just knowing that you have a place you came from can be comforting, and having that taken away must feel strangely like the ground has been pulled from under you. It makes me think about children who are not in open adoptions, and wonder how it feels to know that either you can't go back, or that going back is a difficult journey littered with legal and emotional obstacles.
My father's and my mothers' experiences were so different. My mother doesn't even remember her old house in Queens, because she's lived in her childhood home for almost her entire life. My father was displaced, over and over, until finally coming to the U.S. as an adult.
I wonder, in some ways, if he ever really called this place home.
I think I can better identify with my father's experience of place. Though I can still return to my childhood home any time I want to, when I was in elementary school, I traveled with my mother to attend school where she taught, and it meant that I never really lived fully in either place. Besides the fact that I was just plain different (bookish, less stylish, less street-smart), I
didn't fit in because I wasn't there after school. I wasn't there on
the weekends. I never connected in the unstructured ways that I think now are so important for children. And though I had people to play with
on my block at home, I never really fit in there either, because I
didn't go to school with them, or attend after-school activities with
them.I was always in-between, always in-transit. I remember looking out the window on that long ride home, often with a headache, possibly because I needed a snack, but possibly because I just needed to stop moving. I remember in college calling my dorm room "home," and feeling like that was more genuinely "home" to me than my house had ever been when I was growing up.
And yet, I remember, driving around later on in my adult life on a weekend before I dated S., realizing that I felt more comfortable in the car, on the move, than I did at home. And that maybe that loss wasn't so much of a loss for me after all.
Can you return to your childhood home? What does that mean for you? Do you think it matters to have a physical "space" of origin, especially given how much we move as a culture today?