Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Signs of Origin: Returning to My Roots

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I listened to many podcasts in the midst of travelling this past month from This American Life, a production of Chicago Public Radio. This radio show takes a theme and develops it through multiple stories and examples to create a hugely entertaining hour that celebrates the interesting and unique in life.

One podcast that caught my attention this past trip was about stories of origin--from the humble beginnings of major corporations and inventions, to the histories of relatives and friends. Travelling home always strikes an intangible chord for me--what is it about being where I grew up that feels so significant?

I have moved many times in my life: across the west coast as a child, across the country in college. With each move I have felt a bit more fragmented, as if a piece of myself was left behind, planted in soil elsewhere: in relationships, on trails through the forest, in favorite corners of a house. I would stash a piece of myself in each location I left: a marble under a loose corner of carpet, a signature in an upper corner of a closet, memorizing the view out of a window and the feeling of belonging in that home.

As a child I remember visiting the neighborhood my mom had lived in through high school and listening politely as she recounted significant places: her home, the home of a friend, the hill she stalled on just after learning to drive a stick-shift car. And I remember thinking that even though I knew these places were significant to her, they held no meaning for me. They were unfamiliar street corners in the midst of an unfamiliar place.

As an adult I would find more meaning in those places.

I now have my own sentimental locations. As my husband and I consider the prospect of moving we compile our own sentimental catalogs of places and experiences shared. We speak o f coming back with our own children to show off our old residences and well-travelled running routes. We will stroll the brick streets holding hands, recounting the brisk temperatures we endured in order to steal away from campus for a few moments.

And even though at that moment they probably won't appreciate the tour any more than I did as a child, someday I hope they understand.

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