Tag Archives: belonging

A place in the world

Yesterday I got the idea in my little head that it would be fun to be an online moderator for a new site I joined for mothers in my local area.  They have all kinds of forums that have eaten up more of my day than blogging lately.  One of the forums is called “Natural Living and Attachment Parenting” and they had an announcement about needing a moderator.  I emailed the woman in charge of the site, and she informed me that the position has been filled.

I may live a pretty straight and narrow life these days, but I’ve been known to hang out in alternative-land.

I was a vegetarian for about five years, and would still be now if it weren’t for all these carnivores I live with clamoring for charred flesh.

I lived without a car, using my bike and bike trailer or the bus for all my transportation, for 9 windy rainy wonderful years.

I’ve baked my own bread, fried my own tortillas, made my own clothes, costumes, quilts, cloth bags to carry groceries in, even went so far as to crochet some little bags to put veggies in so I didn’t have to use the plastic ones from the produce section.

I breastfed each of my kids for three years (it’s sad that this is considered alternative.)

I shared sleeping quarters with each kid for at least three years.

I homeschooled my first child until 8th grade, my second until 5th grade, and my third is now homeschooling “first grade.”

I had natural childbirth with midwives and lived dirt poor so I could stay home with my babies.

I’ve lived without tv, phone, bank account or credit cards, I even lived for a time in a house whose only heat was a woodstove, and then I lived for a few days in February without wood.  No better way to wax alternative than not to be able to feel your toes.

I shopped and worked at health food stores for years, trying out all the funky “new” foods that the rest of the world considers staple but Americans find so fascinating, like millet and tofu.

I recycled, reduced, and reused, including finding half-broken furniture and such and repairing it with materials bought at a thrift store or yard sale.

I’ve had an organic garden, composted, grew veggies, mulched with my lawn clippings.

I’ve used a clothesline, canned my own jam with blackberries I picked, crocheted my own afghans and cured illness with home remedies.

And I drank microbrews as long as I could afford to!

And that doesn’t even include all the weird things I’ve done in the name of following my bliss.

I got it into my head when I saw that announcement that I might have a place to share all this, to make my experience be useful to someone, to be needed.  I might have an incentive to stop my slow slide into the disposable convenience of mainstream complacency and regain some of the habits, skills and attitudes that made me feel so self-sufficient and conscientious.  

Of course, I can still post and comment in the forum.  The truth comes out that I just wanted a bit of spotlight, I wanted to alleviate a bit of my new-in-town floatiness by having a place I belong.  I feel way too  much disappointment for a fleeting idea that just came to me yesterday.

So I look at all the projects that I have neglected in the past couple of weeks, developing conversation classes, translation, studying to qualify as an interpreter, and I decide to attack them with renewed vigor.  

Here I go, clicking to put a check mark in the box next to “vigor” and pushing the “renew” button.

And here comes the inspiration…

Wait for it…

Wait…

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“Where are you from?”

“Where am I from?”

This question has always caused me no end of consternation, and for this reason my meditations on the idea of “place,” “where,” and “belonging” will most certainly extend infinitely. Or at least until my “place” is six feet under.

(I’m lying, of course. I intend to be cremated. But “six feet under” is a more powerful phrase than “scattered and randomly dissipated across a small area of dirt and/or water.”)

My husband knows exactly where he is from. He was born and lived in the same place until he left home, and he is the third generation to have done so. He can go back there and many people know him and remember him.

There is only one place I could go where anyone would know me, but that is a place I lived for 14 years of my adult life. I don’t think that counts.

On an official government form, I would respond that I am “from” Hayward, California. That is where the hospital was. Never lived there, worked there, just one small piece of the urban sprawl that is the San Francisco Bay Area.

On a less official form or in a face to face situation, I will claim to be from Oakland, California. My reasoning: one can drive from Hayward into Oakland and never even realize a border has been crossed. Also, lots more people know where Oakland is, or at least have heard of it. And finallly, it legitimizes my rooting for the Raiders.

I only lived in the Bay Area until I was 9, then we moved to Mendocino, where I spent my formative years, graduated, then got the hell out, as was expected of everyone. It is not a place you stay. Can I be “from” there? Sure, who’s gonna know, but it seems to be a stretch. There is no one left there who would know me, which doesn’t seem like much of a hometown.

And so, like many Californians, I would imagine, we have to legally and socially be “from” somewhere, but we don’t really feel it. There isn’t the heartwrenching, visceral connection, stretching down through generations (none of my elders are “from” California), there is just the desire for it.

I suppose the only viable solution would be to move to Hayward and invest myself in the community by making connections, working, living, etc. But have you been to that concrete jungle? Bleh.

Perhaps rootless is the way to go.

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