Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hometown Lure

Not long after we were married, we moved from the east coast of Florida to the west coast in Washington Sate, yielding a diagonal drive across the United States. At one point on the journey and unsuspecting waitress asked, "Where are you from?" It was my tipping point, "We're homeless!" I replied. My husband scrambled to tell her, "We're moving cross country at the moment" not wanting her to think we couldn't pay our bill.

I've long struggled with the question, "Where are you from?" My parents always had an answer, later my husband. As the years went by, I settled with, "I was a military brat so that's a tough question." I usually countered with, "Are you asking, 'Where did I go to high school?' or 'Where did I live the longest?' or 'Where did I live before here?'

Living between duty stations often unhinged this feeling of unbelonging, of homelessness. Untethered to a place, I felt at a loss. I belonged no where yet anywhere. The problem was I desired connection, roots, a place to call my hometown.

After departing from Spain in eleventh grade, I couldn't claim I was from Spain. I went to university in Florida only to realize I wasn't very southern anymore after my years away. I was born in Ohio, but I had mainly visited in summers.

Five years abroad in Japan where every town seems to have a mascot, an official souvenir, and a unique food, I appreciate hometown questions now like, "Are there any special foods it is known for?" This time though the hometown questions aren't undoing me because this time I'm headed for a place I plan to make my hometown so I can answer, "I'm going to find out."

Hometowns aren't for everyone, but when you haven't had one, it's a faraway carrot dangling on a stick. This is the adventure I've long wanted.

Our children are sad to leave Japan, but they can come back and so can we. This time we rooted into not just a military community but to a neighborhood, a culture, and a language. When we return there are many friends to find and places to revisit. There will be changes, the landlord now in the hospital may not be there, some friends may move on, some may change jobs. Still it will be familiar and comforting to return, to stroke surfaces, to revisit gardens, to walk familiar paths, to experience a known place of comfort like home and cite the changes.

In my childhood I listened to my parents commentary about their hometowns. My husband noted business failures, paint jobs, home restorations, and building moves in his hometown. Directions and explanations include history lessons.

I'm finally heading to my hometown. I've never lived there, but like any relationship, I get that it is for better, for worse. I suspect the next part of this chronicle will have something to do with acclimating to American life and taking in this new territory.

We rested our weary bodies in a hotel in Tokyo last night. The Moose had a few tears seeping from his eyes when he was at last bathed and in bed. He said, "I'm sad, I'm going to miss Japan." I told him, "It's ok to miss Japan, it just means you have people that love you here. Do you know how special it is to have people love you all over the world with people that love you from Florida to Ohio to Japan? That's a special thing, and you'll come back. It means you love people all over the world too. It's a good thing to have all that love in your heart." I paused my monolog and noted his sad face did not appear comforted. I wanted to reassure him, I said, "Your tears mean that your heart is so full of love that the tears have to come out to make room for more love." He told me, "Hearts full of love are different tears than tears from pain." I laughed. He's right. The Mule asked, "Can you move your feet from my leg?" We tickled away the rest of the sadness and slept soundly.

I do think hearts full of love make us cry not out of pain but because of their fullness. I left Kamakura full of love.

A hometown beckons, and I am an intrepid explorer.

An Edsel