Coming to terms with my roots.
Part of how I see myself is as a cosmopolitan American. By this I mean I’ve lived in America my whole life, but not any single part of America. I was born in western Nebraska, but my parents moved to Alaska soon after. We lived in a couple towns in Alaska before settling down for quite a few years in eastern Wyoming. After that we moved to western Nebraska again, then to central Nebraska. When my parents moved on, I stayed in central Nebraska before I moved to Ohio. From Ohio I moved to Virginia, then to Kansas. From Kansas I moved to Missouri. Then I was back in western Nebraska, but in a town I’d never lived in before. After that, I moved to where I live in southern New Mexico.
I see my roots as American. I love my country. Still, the roots are to ideals of frontier ingenuity, independent Christian faith, loyalty to family, hard work, liberty, which I see as loving others but letting them make their own mistakes, and freedom, which I see as the right of self determination. You know, America. Quite possibly all this applies to other countries too, but I think of them as America. Oh, sure I like the amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty. I’ve seen the east coast, the west coast, the Gulf Coast and the Gulf of Alaska coast. Wherever I live, I see it as temporary. I see it as a place that I love and enjoy but from which I will move on when the time comes.
In general, when I move, I just move. I leave. I don’t miss a place. Since facebook, I’ve been able to have some sort of relationship with people I once lived near, but for the most part, I don’t really talk to people very much once I’ve moved away from them. It’s over. I don’t know if this is a coping skill I’ve learned because I moved so much or if it is part of who I am and has allowed me to move around so comfortably. I’ve liked them all, but my roots are not more ideological than geographic.
At least that’s the way I see myself. My parents, despite moving around quite a bit, have always seen themselves as being western Nebraskans. More than that, they see themselves as being from the North Platte Valley in the Scottsbluff region of the panhandle. My parents lived there growing up, their parents lived there their whole lives and I lived there for the end of junior high and the beginning of high school. We lived in a house built by my great grandfather and that we rented from my grandmother. While we were there, my parents saw themselves as “home.” I’ve always seen it as being another place where I lived one time.
This past summer, my parents moved back there. They moved back to the very same family house, and right now, I am there visiting them. It is weird. This house is owned by family, so I’ve been back a few times. It’s always been weird, but actually staying there is weirder. The house is different than it was when we lived here. First of all it is surrounded by a thick wind break: a necessity for this region where the wind can regularly gust into the 40mph range on a still day. On windy days, like yesterday, it just stays there. It was really nice to have it yesterday. My dad and I planted it in 1988 and I had to haul 5 gallon buckets of water out to those trees every day. I hated it.
Those trees, the trees I helped plant and water, are the strongest markers of the weirdness of this place. Generally, I do things, but I guess because I am always moving on I rarely see the consequences of my actions, rarely see the reaping of what I sow.
My Dad and I took his car into a mechanic. The mechanic had been one of the kids in the youth group when dad was a young minister. The mechanic came out and told me about how my dad had led him to Christ in the early 1970’s. He told me about how he had been able to grow in the faith himself, and how he witnesses to others through his business. It was like the trees. I know my Dad has been ministering for a long time, but it is only the immediate consequences of his work that I see and that I know.
I am who I have become and I don’t think that I could ever really become a person with geographic roots. I suppose this place where my family is from is as close as I’ll ever have. I am content with finding these. I am content with seeing these trees. I am content to come back and see these people. It’s enough. An old man in a green pickup truck drove in while I was walking my dogs yesterday and said “you must be a cousin.” I guess I must be. I guess this must be “home.”