Thursday, December 13, 2012

family traditions

I'm getting ready to go home, to be home for a while.  And, while I pack and prepare to get on another couple of planes and lose a couple days of my life to airport limbo, I've been thinking about my heritage.

As an American, I identify with precious little else.  I've got some English/Scottish and a bunch of Eastern European block countries in my background somewhere, but I could not tell you where my ancestors came from.  I think I've got some German?  But I only think that because of how thoroughly I was taught to scrub things clean.  And I may have made up the Scottish heritage entirely, as I can't really abide the bagpipes.  So, I'm a American.  An American mutt, from the East Coast, right outside the Capitol, if anyone's asking, but mostly, staunchly American.

I've grown up very proud of that, and I've grown even more attached to it as an expat.  Americans are wanderers... or at least my Americans have been.  My family, whoever they are, wherever they come from, they have always been wanderers.

My great-grandmother, a Heil, lived in Baltimore long before I got there.  She held railroad stock, fiercely independent woman that she was.  And my grandmother Helen used to be walking through the streets of Irvington, a place none of us are likely to ever get back to, and would catch of glimpse of her mom on the train, going anywhere, reading the newspaper.

My grandfather was active-duty military for most of his life and each of his children were born in different states (and one in a different country)!  Not even the world was a big enough adventure for him.  He needed to see heaven too.

My aunt Carmen, who died just a few years ago, was a feisty old woman, whose walking club offered a farewell hike after her wake.  She told me a story once about being in a South American country during a political coup.  The tour guides packed all the visitors into a church until the fighting was over and then began making arrangements to send everyone home.  Carmen marched up to the folks in charge and asked "when will we go back out there and see it?"  The guides told her that she'd be on a plane shortly.  She asked why?  All the good stuff was still waiting for her, probably made better for the excitement.

My parents took a roadtrip around the country for their honeymoon.  My brother and I have our fond roadtrip memories, as children.  We've seen the United States from the ground.

I hold this heritage inside of me, so deeply that decisions made in this vein - running away to the beach, new-city adventures, strolling by myself through a park, solo roadtrips much longer than normal people would commit to - these aren't questioned, they are assumed.  Of course.  The people who have come before me have led me to these experiences, they followed this path first, to the wanderlust of my life.

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