I've been living in the Southeast for nearly a decade. Being here in the heart of the Bible Belt, where family and history is second only to God, is an eye opening experience for someone who did not grow up here. Generations of sons and daughters attend the same schools their fathers and mothers did, family bloodlines arc cleanly through the years, and where you're from is one of the first questions you'll be asked when meeting someone new.
I find this fascinating in some ways and stifling in others. As a girl who repeatedly asked her parents where the adoption papers were kept, you might suspect that I do NOT have deep familial roots.
This agitates my mother, which I find strange, since she is very much about family - but after my parents moved us across the country at ages nine (me) and seven (my brother), they never made an effort to connect us with the family left behind on the east coast. Sure, there were birthday and holiday cards sent by relatives, and stilted phone conversations, but as for exploring our roots, getting to know our cousins OR the older generation, visiting my parents' childhood haunts - none of that ever happened.
My grandparents all died around the same time - in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when I would have been around twelve-ish (with the exception of my maternal grandmother who died in 1992), so I never knew them well. For many years it's been just me and my nuclear family. And we're not exactly what you'd call close-knit.
Is it any wonder, then, that I feel more rooted to places than people? When I think about my own personal history, it has more to do with places I've been than with feeling connected to people in my life. I think about the move to the Southwest, in the late 1970s, growing up there, what the city looked like to me then. I think about the piece of land my parents bought in Prescott, while I was in high school, and how we camped there until they built what has turned into their retirement home. I spent hours as a girl, exploring the forestlands on those camping weekends, walking the dirt road that connects the sparse number of homes just outside of Prescott. I dreamed and imagined all over that land.
I think about places we visited. One year we took an amazing trip to Colorado. But what I remember about it are the incredible mountains and the vast views from roadside stops. I remember the waterfalls and drinking that cold mountain water in July (for the record, it tasted better than any water I have had before or since). I remember the quaint charm of Durango. I remember the glorious run on a high school track in the altitude - lungs searing, but the feeling of being so very alive just then - those are the things that shape my history and my past. But in them, I am alone.
This little guy was a souvenir of that trip. I've had him since I was fifteen. :)
Recently my mother has been going through things and sorting. I'm sure that has to do with my father's impending death from cancer, and the ways in which her life will change. Totally understandable. And my mother is a bit of a hoarder (not in an "as seen on Television" way by any means. But her mother gave away or got rid of nearly everything of mom's from her childhood, her treasured family items, without ever asking mom first. And I'm not sure mom has ever quite gotten over that. So she keeps lots of bits and bobs from years past).
One of the things mom was cleaning out last time was her jewelry box(es). I do come by this jewelry affliction honestly! She has a small collection of Native American jewelry that dad bought her in the '70s and '80s. And this time she gave me the two cuff bracelets pictured above, saying that she knew that I would cherish them. And I do. To me they are a talisman of a certain point in my life, transitioning from young girl to teenager and starting to become a grown woman. Moving toward myself. Finding my way in a family-less terrain...shaping who and what I would become. So they are treasured in ways my mother, I think, would never imagine. They are a part of my history. They say, I have been here. They mark a point in time from which I can look back to and find comfort in both who I was then and who I am now. They are my roots.