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If we’ve timed everything correctly and not run into any problems on the road, we will have reached our destination by now.
Driving halfway across the country wasn’t something I planned to do this year. From the moment I accepted the inevitability of going back, I knew it would be better not to think about it too much. I kept telling myself to just do what needed to be done and not think about what it would all mean. Hah. Who was I kidding?
I’ve never driven so far before, much less with kids in tow. I was kind of looking forward to that part. It would definitely be an adventure for all of us. And it wasn’t like I was doing it totally on my own. A family friend was generous enough to lead the way thus removing much of my anxiety. As a matter of fact, a lot of people had pulled together to get us through this. Otherwise, we would have been pretty much stranded or forced to leave most of our belongings behind.
The material things wouldn’t have bothered me so much, but there was no way I’d be able to leave all the personal history mementos behind. I dreaded the thought of culling my family’s history even more. It’s that old packrat quirk of mine coming into play again. Having tangible reminders of our past is important to me. I want to make sure my children have the sense of continuation that I lacked. Purging causes acute mental anguish. I do it out of necessity, but I’m grimacing the whole time. Fortunately, that wasn’t a concern thanks to some wonderful people.
Now that I think about it, I should be more sad than I am about all that we’re leaving behind. I suppose it comes and goes. Sometimes, I want to cry. Oftentimes I do, and then mercifully, the numbness sets in. We’re really going to miss this place.
North Carolina turned out to be a great place to live. It has its problems like anywhere else, but it grew on us quickly. We were just beginning to discover all the great things our particular area had to offer. My son was a baby when we first moved here. It was the only place he’d ever known. My daughter had tons of friends and recently co-founded an Asian Culture Club at her school. She served as vice president until it was time for us to leave. The place grew on us so much, we hope to return some day.
For me, the hilarious thing is that I’m just returning to things I’d previously left behind. I’ll be able to visit my old hometown for the first time in almost a decade. It makes me think back to the time I left that place. Even though there were people and things I knew I’d miss, I wasn’t really all that reluctant to leave, much less so about leaving NC.
It was a difficult adjustment going from small Texas town to an actual city. Bellevue, Nebraska wasn’t really a metropolis, but way bigger than anything I was use to. Thinking back, I adapted quickly, but it probably didn’t seem like that back then. The cool thing was that it was just large enough that I could more easily blend in and almost disappear there. I grew to like it there, made friends, made plans and got a boyfriend.
In the middle of my senior year, Texas called me back in the form of my dad’s work transfer. I begged and pleaded to stay for the remainder of my school year and graduate, but Dad wouldn’t hear of it. So, back we went where I would eventually graduate high school. My senior ring says one school while my diploma says another. It’s sadly appropriate and symbolic of the instability that’s dogged me since I can remember. The closest thing to security I’ve ever known is the 15+ years I spent with my adoptive mother. Even then, I carried the subconscious fear of disruption. First, my father had left. Then, I’d watched my oldest brother leave. Who would be next?
My subsequent wanderings would take me east, halfway across the country, first to Florida and then to North Carolina. Now, at age 39, Texas is again calling me back. This time, it comes in the form of trying to offer some sense of stability for my own children. The absurdity isn’t lost on me, but there is nothing else to be done.
I comfort myself by thinking in a strange way, it’s fitting. Those tangible mementos that I consider so important are things I intend to leave behind for my children. Long after I passed from this earth, they will have proof of my existence and some glimpse into who their mother was. By taking them back to see where I grew up, they’ll have access to yet another part of my history, something else I’d “left behind.”
Unlike Má, I’ll be there to share it with them in person, be able to guide them through it. Perhaps I’ll be able to fill in some of the blanks or at least prevent new ones from forming in our family history. In Bryan Sykes’ Adam’s Curse, he conveys his experience of visiting the home of “the very first Sykes.”
“As I stood, I could almost hear the voices of children – my ancestors -…. Without the DNA evidence, it would have been an interesting enough experience to see where the first recorded Mr Sykes lived. But I would have been detached from it.”
He goes on to say that the connection would have been only a mental process, “But to to know that the Y-chromosome that I carry in all my cells had been here, in this place, in the fields beside the stream, was a completely different sensation. Now it felt as if I were experiencing the history of a real part of myself, a place where some of me had actually lived.”
Perhaps now, the kids won’t put much value on our return visits. Maybe they never will. Who really knows? Maybe they or perhaps one of their children or their children’s children will want to know more about how they came to be who and where they are. Hopefully, they’ll be able to feel that some part of them was there in that small town long ago, too. That part of their heritage, however meager, will be a part of them. It wasn’t grafted on or substituted for another. It’s genuine and something that truly belongs to them and the generations to come.
Má unintentionally severed our bloodline and left nothing but questions. It is my hope that I leave something more for my children. But there are no guarantees, are there? All I can do is preserve as much for them as possible and hope the chain remains unbroken.
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