Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Last night, over drinks with a friend, we started talking about Place. My friend C. feels very much at home here in Prospect Heights, and wanted to, in her words, "put down roots."

I thought about that sentiment, searching within myself for anything similar and, found nothing. I don't have roots to a place. My immediate family came to the U.S. from Brazil in 1960, living first in Manhattan, then Queens, then South Florida. The extended family followed the same course but then moved out to Utah, New Mexico, and then returned to the Northern parts of Florida.

My grandparents moved around more times than I can count once they reached Florida. Every time they seemed to be packing up and moving. Back when I was in college, they moved back to Brazil for a few years. Then they returned to Florida.

My mother and her husband moved from Miami to the Dominican Republic for a few years and then moved back.

There is no family home. When I visit my mother in Florida, it's a house she's had for a few years, but it’s not the place I grew up in (and I grew up in a variety of apartment complexes). My grandparents never bought, and now my grandfather, widowed, splits his time traveling between Brazil and Florida. When he's in the states, it's in an apartment complex that has no familial ties.

The other thing our family doesn't have are items passed down through the generations. There’s no quilt from a great-grandmother. No china handed down. No books, writings, dolls, trinkets. Not even jewelry. There are no sentimental items and the ones that could have been sentimental to future generations were sold or given away or left behind through all the moves. On my father's side, my great-aunt has pictures but my mother's past is like a slate wiped clean. There is a spiral notebook of her debutante ball – photos of my mother at sixteen in a gown and white gloves looking all serious - and that's the extent of her past.

It frustrates me a bit when I think about how there's so little that's tangible about our family, but, then I think about what things my family valued throughout the ages. They didn't put value in possessions, but in experiences and in pursuing dreams and being in the present moment, without much regard for the past or the future.

Ours is a transient family. There are no roots. There are no gravestones to visit. There are no inheritances. We might as well go from town to town in a wagon with our stuff tied up in a hobo sack that gets lost along the way.

So if you ever hear that I'm living in an RV (which one of my cousins did recently while traveling across America) or moving to some random town somewhere, then you know where my family legacy lies.