Rootlessness

When I was doing the editing for my last post, my title word came up: rootless. What I thought was just a sense of this disconnection from my younger self to my older self turned out to be something much deeper. Multigenerational, even.

Lately, I’ve found myself aching for a sense of my own history. I am the immigrant daughter of a recently established immigrant family, soon to move to America. Any sense of self that I have built up in the last ten years will be greatly altered. Thus, it’s a time of personal reinvention and questioning. This step forward has made me think and overthink what I want my life to look like when I move. The kinds of places I’ll go, the kinds of clothing I’ll wear, the friends I’ll make – all have played on my mind.

And yet, I already doubt that this move will bring me close to an authentic sense of belonging. This is a pessimistic view, but I find myself wanting more and more to be closer to nature – to feel the Earth’s cycles, to feel dirt under my fingernails, to grow carrots and play in snow. These desires are at odds with a city where summer lasts for seven months and casual wastefulness appears on full display. Either I will find what I am looking for, or I will move on.

But that isn’t to say that I’ve ever felt truly at home where I live now. Nor did I feel as though I was at home in the house where spent my childhood. I am, however, enthusiastically looking. 

Religion was once a tradition I kept up because it made me feel like another link in my familial chain, kneeling before the sacraments and inhaling Vatican incense. When I unceremoniously left the church, I severed ties with an institution that had marked the births and deaths of my family since they were in the old country. Their names were logged, their marriages were recorded. So was mine. 

If we go back far enough, though, all of our ancestors practiced the ‘old ways’ – the rituals and beliefs that put humans in touch with nature and helped us understand the world through its cycles. 

Perhaps what my heart longs for is the black forests of the Volga River valley, where my mom’s family came from. Or the sun-baked earth in southern Italy, where my father’s came from. The push and pull of both is almost equal, which makes it difficult to decide where one belongs. If I feel a piece of my identity in both places, how can I call either home, or feel at home anywhere else?

When I married my husband, I became a Hamilton. I got to wear the tartan at balls, and I was part of a new family. It has been fun to feel like one of them, but I know I’m just an in-law – not a member in my own right.

Maybe these thoughts have come upon me because I’ve booked the shipment of our things and the flights for our pets. Maybe I’ve just been reading too much of Jonna Jinton’s blog, nostalgic for a life that was never my own. To be able to go back to a piece of the earth where my family once lived would be both a dream and impossible: it’s under the Moscow Sea.

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