6.14.2006

itch

I suppose whether it’s in the blood or the brain is up for some debate. I don't know if I can shed any light on the nature-nurture quandary (although nannying fraternal twins these last ten months has me leaning nature on many counts) but I do know that there is something to be said for family trends. My maternal granddad grew up a cowboy during the depression, a nomadic enough trade in its limited way. His wife, a farm girl from Virginia, had run off to California when she ran out of money halfway there, got a job in a Texas hospital and met him when his buddy was under her care after being thrown in a rodeo. My paternal grandmother was shipped off to West Texas to teach in a one-room schoolhouse at sixteen, and soon thereafter migrated to Chicago for more schooling of her own – big travel strides for her age and generation.

My mother went to Jordan for awhile after college, and my father started working Mississippi river boats right out of high school, then spent the next several years as a merchant marine and then a captain of tankers in the South Pacific before returning to Texas to 'settle down.' When I was nine, they packed us off to Southeast Asia for “a year or two” on a business venture. I returned stateside for college when I turned eighteen.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I woke up on Sunday to the realization that I am the only member of my immediate family currently in the United States. My parents are trapsing around South Africa and my baby sister just moved to Paraguay for some indefinite period. Even though Peter and I are packing the car for our northward migration in a few weeks, I am feeling a little left out. For many of my friends who grew up following a similar global migration pattern, this is only a blip on the radar. But my context is so different now that I am married to a man whose family has lived in the same house since he was five – the type of background that garnered violent jealousy in me for a period in college - that it threw me for a loop when Sarah called me from the airport on her way South.

Peter has been to all but two of the fifty states – we will tick off one more on our trip north, leaving him with only Hawaii (bummer!) to traverse at some point - and has driven across the country enough times to be well versed in state character and quirk. I could probably count my state travels on my hands, and have only memories of generic gas stations and on-ramps blending them to a vague mush in my mind. Peter can tell intricate stories of our shared national history and the characters therein, which require a shameful amount of back story for me to even begin to follow. I have a lot to learn, and for the first time I am actually craving it. Living here has thrown my brain, usually piling up plans for crossing Mongolia on horseback or looking for long-term beachfront rentals in Goa, into spasms of “sea to shining sea.” Suddenly I want to risk life and limb in the Needles as well as Tibet, spend weeks trekking through the Badlands and the Road of Bones. I actually want to visit obscure historic sites for the stories they tell, and don’t always feel like I have to be in Ireland graveyards to find good ones. My genetic border itch is no less pronounced, but it has been broadened now to appreciate boot shuffling opportunities a little closer to home.

Home. Hmm. Where was that again?

2 comments:

beholdhowfree said...

I love this. Long live the nomadic life!

Soen Joon Sunim said...

It's funny--I feel the same way about travelling the States now that I've travelled *elsewhere*. I'm curious, I want to know more about the adventures that were (and probably will be again) at hand in my so-called "native country." Paul Theroux wrote of a friend once, "He found exotic places so congenial, he became an exile at home," a wonderful way to summerize what it means to become a traveller, anywhere and anyhow.