Prompted by an old college friend’s blog on coming back to her southern roots after many years of struggling with the contradiction of southern gentility and charm, in her mostly northern, well educated, intellectual and successful life, I started reflecting on my own roots, or lack thereof, and just what are “roots” and how can I springboard the very idea into a more in depth discussion on one of my favorite rants, that of fundamentalism, aka attachment or zealous self-righteousness in proselytizing one’s own opinions and not remaining open minded.
I guess it all started with my kids and being begrudgingly bullied into the Christmas spirit. My youngest, at age 11, insists on listening to Christmas music in the car. My 14-year-old son is in militant denial that despite the overwhelming peer pressure and factual proof of Santa’s nonexistence, he insists on peppering his conversation with questions on Santa’s milk and cookie routine and what time Santa actually arrives on Christmas eve. I patiently and almost routinely, answer the questions and listen to the music while somehow finding myself reflecting on my own childhood Christmas beliefs and am catapulted back into the morass of my own journey from my roots to where I am today.
Truth be known, I often feel as if I have no roots, as in any one place I grew up or where my family still lives today. I was born in one place, Rochester, NY, and moved about every three to four years right up through high school. So when people ask me where I’m from, I almost stammer a bit and have a hard time coming up with a concise answer. I didn’t know how greatly this lack of being “from” a place had affected me until I got into therapy. Hah. No, just kidding, I actually became more and more traumatized with each move though I was able to split off and fantasize each time about the new place, new start, new friends, better life circumstances, etc.
My father was not in the military, nor was he transferred for a job. He was in the advertising/marketing field and I have been told that it is not that uncommon to change jobs a lot in that field. However, part of it was my father’s personality and his general stubborn idealism and beliefs of living by the golden rule in a business world that places values on the something as silly as money. Fortunately, my dad generally got decent jobs and we maintained a lifestyle of middle class throughout my childhood. It was not easy, for any of us, but I have come around to the opinion (after years of therapy), we all do the best we can at any given point in our lives and thus my father was doing just that. Plus, there are a whole lot of good things about moving a lot as well. I have friends from most of the different places we lived, that I didn’t even realize I still had until I went on Facebook and looked them up. This has been a boon. As well, no one can pin down where I’m from based on any sort of accent or colloquialisms. I’m stealth.
Seriously though, I’ve gained a vast wealth of knowledge from all my life experiences and come to terms with mostly all of them, better and not so positive. At this time of year, when it seems people generally reflect and take stock of their past year, their lives, and practice their holiday traditions, I want to shirk the whole thing. It initially exhausts me, as I’m always worried about the cost. Not just financially, but as in what am I doing or not doing to give my children the memories they need to form the groundwork for their own beliefs and traditions. Here’s one thing they have, living in the same friggin’ place, from at least the age of 5 (my oldest) onward. It is a whole different game and I can see the value of having the same friends and going to the same schools.
So my roots are fragmented and scattered around the Northeast and Midwest. I walk through life with an ability to maintain a sense of self without a good deal of attachment to people places or things. I know how to move on and look to the future and integrate the feelings of loss triggered when people move and leave my life for one reason or another and honor those feelings. Life is hard and Christmas is a time when we can remember our friends and family, whether with us or not and celebrate the roots that gave birth to our own process of change and growth. Especially today where there seems to be such an undercurrent of anger, hatred and fear fueled by politicians and the news media. How to explain this to our children that fear and hatred are not hats to wear, when police are suddenly walking the halls of their schools?
When they return home with questions and fears of their own, I must dig deep far back into my own childhood and roots and pull out the times when I felt fear and hatred just as they do and what I was taught and experienced in my family, that is a message of love. A love that cannot be pigeonholed or owned by one religious tradition or method of recovery or any other path. Love is above and beyond all, not ours to keep but ours to share. I am grateful that I can give this to my kids and trust me, it ain’t always a perfect message, in a perfect package in a perfectly decorated home with perfectly wrapped presents under a perfectly adorned tree. Did I say perfect too much? Nah…that’s not how I roll. I learned that walking in and out of town after town and school after school, house after house. Perfection and control are illusions and what is under the tree that matters are the symbols of love given to each other in poorly wrapped, odd shaped presents, humorous mishaps at Christmas dinner or whatever you do or don’t do during the holiday season, grab it. Hold it. Treasure it and share it. Please. And show the family that love can still win.