One of my favorite bloggers and podcasters, Tsh Oxenreider, published a new book out this week called At Home in the World. I’ve already got the audio version and I’m really excited to start it. The book is a memoir of her year spent travelling the world with her husband and three kids (#lifegoals), and I enjoy her outlook and writing style. I also love that she does this with her kids- I think that’s so brave! As part of her celebration and promotion for her book release, she’s inviting her readers to submit their own thoughts on where they feel at home. I wasn’t going to do it, but the more I think about it the more I realize I actually have a lot to say on feeling ‘at home’.
When people ask me where I’m from, I never know quite how to answer. I don’t think I’m “from” any one place, so I don’t have a short answer for this. Usually I keep it simple and say something like “I grew up in Innisfail”, which isn’t entirely true. If I feel like being more detailed I say, “I was born in Utah, but grew up in Ohio and California.” If pushed further I’ll say, “But I’ve lived in Canada for about half my life, so I feel as much/more Canadian than I do American now.” Although I have connections to all of these places, I don’t consider myself “from” any of them. What makes you “from” a place anyways? Isn’t it just contextual? Relative?
Because of this struggle, I’ve always been unreasonably jealous of people who have deep roots or a connection to a place- family that goes back a few generations, stories of parents and grandparents growing up, friends and neighbors they’ve known their whole lives. When I hear others talk about their history with a place, all I can think of is how I don’t have that. I can’t help but wonder what it feels like to have such deep roots in a place. If those roots and that connection effect the way a person is in the world- how she holds herself and interacts with others, if it gives them a sense of confidence and belonging that I’ll never know.
Last November my husband and I drove down to the States for my brother and sister-in-laws sealing in the LDS temple in Manti, a tiny farming town in central Utah. A temple sealing is a sacred Mormon ordinance in which a husband and wife, and any future or existing children, are ‘sealed’ together for time and all eternity. It was a whirlwind of a trip- we spent nearly 34 hours driving and only one full day there. It was worth it though, because on this trip I discovered a family heritage I didn’t even know I had.
After the sealing and family dinner was over, my dad got in the car to drive back to Bountiful with John and I. The whole way back he talked to us about the little towns we were driving through- Ephraim, Mt. Pleasant, Fairview- and reminisced about his childhood there (over there is the hospital where I was born, this is where the corner store Steve and I used to go to on the way to Grandma’s house was), but mostly he told stories about my grandparents. Stories I had never heard before, about their families and what their life was like before they met and when they were dating and first married. I heard about the Danish uncles, my grandma’s mother, my grandpa’s brothers. I learned about all the little towns we passed through, and how my grandparents’ histories were tied to them, how my dad was tied to them, and how I, even distantly, was tied to these places.
This might sound strange, a little woo-woo, but for the first time ever I felt an almost visceral, physical connection to a place. Even though I might not be from any of these little towns, my family is. My family has a history in this part of the country. I have a claim there, my family has a place. I can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me. I feel a little less lost in the world, like I can go forward with a certain confidence I’ve never felt before.
I’m not too sure exactly when it happened, but I know after nearly 17 year of living here that Alberta is home. I might not have roots here, I might not be “from” here, but its home now. And although I want to show my kids the world, although I’d love to live abroad or spend a year traveling like Tsh did with her family, Alberta is where I’ll return to. This is where I want to settle in and let my roots grow deep, this is where I want my kids to be connected to, so that when they grow up they can say, “I’m from Alberta.” I’ll never have that deep, generations-back history with my home that I so envy in others, but that’s okay. I’ve felt it.
I’d like to go back one day with my dad, and my grandparents too. I’d like to record their memories and their histories of their places so that I have these stories to pass down to my children. The stories of their heritage, that will help them, as they’ve helped me, feel like they are at home in the world, like they have a place.