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Roots

When I was growing up, I used to be jealous of the kids around me who had lived in one place their whole lives and whose families had lived there back through generations. They were tied to the area through roots that stretched back through unimaginable spans of time. It fascinated me. They had aunts, uncles and cousins everywhere; streets and shops that bore their names. They were a part of the land… Such was my sensation, that I was thrilled when my mother told me we had a cousin of a cousin through marriage (once or twice removed?) in the area, whose kids were in our school system…even though we never hung out with them and one of the brothers liked to torment a friend of mine. It was still an invisible line I could link to, to feel like a part of the group.

Now, I am the mother of three children…each one of them born in a different state, just like me and my own siblings, and after the longest stint yet living in any one place, we are once again preparing to move.

Moving is not easy…and I am not talking about the buying and selling of the home, complete with inspection reports that can make even the nicest house toured seem like not much more than a pile of corroded, leaky, defective sticks (it looked so perfect when we walked through…geez…what are they going to say about our house?); nor am I referring to the notices of each showing of our own place with all the cleaning and rearranging so that the house looks its absolute best, despite being home to not one…but two… of that notoriously sloppy and elusive creature known as the teenager, and inevitably followed by the herding of all inhabitants, two-legged and four, into the car for a nice drive about town while perfect strangers browse through our home, judging each beloved scratch or ding (Sweetie, [insert nostalgic tone] remember when you pushed your sister’s buttons so incessantly that she threw that plastic rhinoceros at you and dented the wall?) so that they can then come up with statements about being turned off by the fact that the carpet has some wear to it. (I apologize: we were walking on it as a family of five for the past 6 years, when, as I now realize, we should have been hovering about like Casper and his uncles…). It is hard in all these ways, too, but I am referring to that feeling of foreboding and uncertainty…the almost audible pulling of roots from the ground…the sensation of loss…

It really doesn’t matter where we are going. We could be moving into Cinderella’s castle (the one from the movie…not the one right smack in the middle of one of the most crowded theme parks on Earth) or our own private tropical island with candy-bearing trees and streams of coffee. It is still a move from the known (with its comfortable routine and familiar faces) to the unknown. Sadly , somewhere along the way through life’s inevitable bumps and bruises, which seem to cement themselves into our memories so much more readily than do the times of ease and enjoyment… perhaps in our brain’s effort at self preservation… we tend to shift from the expectation we often have as children, of finding a Narnia deep in every closet, to a more “adult” attitude of there may be an axe murderer behind each door.

Roots make us feel secure. I can almost feel them extending down through the soles of my feet, and probing the earth around me, looking for a way to seep into the ground to anchor me each time we set up in a new home. More and more, however, I have had the opportunity to observe how the roots that extend out and around those we love are the ones that truly stabilize us. We are not trees, after all, whose only hope of standing against the wind is a strong, stationary network into the land. Our connection to each other…to those around us can stabilize us even while we move from place to place, and life (not the wind) mercilessly throws debris at us.

The more we tend to these horizontal roots, the more they will help to sustain us when we are hit unexpectedly by life’s inevitable curve balls… When, for example, we are scrambling to prepare the house for the market, and our loving family Newfoundland who we first met as a two-week-old pup…who saved Little Man when he was an even littler man… suddenly takes a turn for the worse…and we lose him the very next day; when not even a week later, our talented seventeen-year-old daughter…my Moon… comes downstairs short of breath and is rushed to the ER where we discover that her lung has partially collapsed; when things have not improved enough for that same talented young lady to attend the art and design camp she has been looking forward to from the very moment she was accepted, and we are instead planning out a myriad of tests to discover why this happened…

When we think we cannot weather one more storm, or even the slightest puff of wind, it is not the roots we have to the land currently occupied that sustain us, but those that web out and around our family and friends near and far… spanning unimaginable distances, over mountains even, and across oceans… that help us to bear what can seem impossible to shoulder.

I am still fascinated by those families that have ties to the land they live on spanning back generations. Heck, I even married one…though he ended up being the black sheep who wandered away from the family pasture, preferring instead to explore the world. I am still fascinated, but I am no longer jealous. I know that the horizontal roots that I have established for myself and my family will nourish and sustain my children in every way that they require and that they will, in turn, expand those roots out even further during their own life adventures and travels, whether they choose to live near or far.

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