When my grandfather died, and my aunt found the trunk of letters from him to my granmother, my aunt also unearthed photos from my grandfather's side of the family. Among those photos was a picture of a little girl, maybe about 10 years old, who came from the strain of the family that migrated from somewhere in France to somewhere in Canada, and finally into the United States through Michigan and Ohio. Although the photo is black-and-white, I imagine her skin to be olive-toned because her hair is a mass of tight, natural curls and her features suggest a heretofore unmentioned Semitic gene in the Bluestocking family pool. Indeed, she in some ways looks exactly as my aunt did, minus the curly hair, when she was about that age.
Is this girl directly related to me? I wondered. How? Why does she look so, so, so not-Northern European? Were there Jews in the family? Or, perhaps, Gypsies? I want to beleive Gypsies, because that might be a poetic, biologically-deterministic, explanation of my life for these past few years.
As a small child, my father says, my brother and I used to play "moving." We would gather our toys into one corner of our room, then methodically move them to another corner of the room. I actually have no memory of this game, although I have about a million memories from the first three years of my life that constantly amaze my mother with their accuracy. Nevertheless, I am inclined to believe that my brother and I played this game because our family moved a total of seven times in my first nine years of life.
My dad was in the service, but he and my mother moved far less freuqenly during his time in the service than we did during those first nine years of my life. I was born on a base in West Texas, but my dad, facing a tour as chief of military police in Saigon after Tet, with a small daughter, a newborn son, and a wife in the throes of postpartum depression, resigned his commission. He took a job as a civilian employee of the Navy, investigating "defectors" and "draft dodgers," and conducting background checks on applicants for admission to Officer Candidate School. That brought us to Minnesota.
We moved twice in Minnesota, then moved to Iowa when my dad transferred to another governmental bureaucractic office. That office then transferred him to Louisiana, where we first lived on one side of the river from New Orleans, then on the other. My grandparents, my father's in-laws, lived around the corner from us in the second location, which contributed to the last move, to Texas.
I once asked my dad, "why Texas?" The "of all places" was implied. "Well," he said. "I heard your brother say that he wanted to go to the 'turlit.' He sounded just like a Y'at. I wasn't going to let my kids become Y'ats."
"So Texas was better?" I asked. After all, doesn't common knowlege dictate that any type of a southern accent, without regard to specific local variance, will automatically lower your I.Q. by at least twenty points? Plus, as far as being a "y'at" was concerned, a redneck's a redneck, wherever you are.
"Then, there was your grandmother," he said. "We were grateful for all that you grandparents did for us, watching your brother when your mother went back to work after he was born and babysitting ya'll so much; but, GOD!, your grandmother would not mind her own damn business. Texas was just far enough away for reasonable visits on holidays, but not close enough for her to meddle."
That, I believed. The woman has to be in charge, and stirs shit when she isn't. She has this uncanny ability to turn my own mother into a ten year old within about fifteen minutes, which does nothing for the already screwed up dynamics of our family. So, having Ole Ola Mae a seven hour drive away was a wise choice on my dad's part.
Then, my dad got serious. We moved to Texas, he said, because "people in New Orleans were so goddamn backwards."
Again, I asked "Texas was better?" Actually, I think my dad was right on this one to some tiny degree, regardless of the redneck-rule, which doesn't say much for Louisiana. I later discovered, to my undying horror, that we had lived in David Duke's district in New Orleans, while it was his district. Of course, my parents now live in Tom DeLay's district. (Oops! make that former district!) Mercifully, my parents may have voted for Nixon, but they thought Duke and DeLay were evil incarnate.
So, we moved to Texas, in the middle of a school year, and there I stayed for the next 25 years. Naturally, as an adult, I moved out of their house and into four different apartments; but moving from one apartment to another, in the same city, is not really a huge change. I knew that even then.
Mostly, I spent 25 years plotting my liberation from Texas. Indeed, my machinations consumed so much of my time that I didn't actually get around to escaping until 2001. Now, although I haven't lived in Texas since then, I still claim it as a nebulous sort of "home," as in "where I came from" rather than "where I currently live and plan to stay for a while."
I haven't had a home "where I currently live and plan to stay for a while" since 2001. You might even argue that I didn't before then, what with all of my plotting to leave. Nevertheless, since leaving Texas, nowhere has felt as like "home" as Texas did when I lived there. By "home" I mean where you are part of the place, whether you love it or hate it, where you give a real good goddamn about what happens there, and where you have groups of people who give a real good goddamn about what happens to you.
Since 2001, I have stayed in a lot of places. I have lived in two mid-western states and two New England states, and have had had seven different addresses. I don't count extended stays in motels, of which there have been many (an average of two weeks between each different address). Indeed, the places that have felt most like a home have been hotel rooms, because they are so familiar in their sameness, and My Human's house, because it was the most consistent place that I stayed, although only for weekends over a two year period and because it was and extension and expression of him. His home, like the hotels, were never bone-deep mine, nor could it ever be. Both were just familiar for me.
Now, I'm into this moving fray again. I'm packing everything up, and hiring movers, trying to find a new place, and just going through the whole emotional and psychological ordeal of placing all of my worldly belongings into the hands of strangers. I have no future address, and my current one is now temporary, not really mine any longer. I begin to wonder if I shouldn't just buy a Winnebago and live out of that.
Still, what I really want, and for which I am so deathly afraid to hope, is to have a home, wherever that home might be.
I just have to stay in one place long enough.