Believe me. I’m a writer. I used to say it was I do. Now it’s something I am.
What does that even mean?
The University of Edinburgh is cold, erratically sunny, but common spurts of rain. The University of Iowa is not different. There are haunted bookshops next to corner diners. Art deco frozem yogurt shops are the perfect late night snack; and theatres show crazy adaptations from Mary Kay cosmetic musicals or heretics staging the life of Arthur Conon Doyle through the eyes of Sherlock. It’s fanatic, crazy pro-university town status that I never seem to escape.
November rolls around and Iowa is frozen before Scotland sees a drop of snow or ice. Students wrap themselves in blankets just to go outside; and I’m wearing what I wore in September. I was born and raised in America. I say “America,”
because too many people classify themselves as regional. I didn’t have the luxury of middle school cliques following me into high school romances or drama that changed my life. I don’t know what it’s like to fight with my Mum. (My dad’s a different story; but I’m sure not all Father’s taught their daughter to dance with a boy at the age of 11–just in case the boy got frisky, I could bend his arm back and throw him on the ground.) That paranthetical sounds a lot cooler now knowing it was the best tactic to have up my sleeve when dealing with boys.
Tradition mattered in my family; because I was the one that brought it up. I wanted to know why, even though all my preschool friens had manorahs, we wouldn’t. Where was our Christmas tree? Were we going to have a giant Turkey on Thanksgiving, too? Was our family ever going to come and visit us?
But I didn’t think about travel costs or other lives in regions too far away to travel. In the Northeast, we never saw anyone. Traditions were our own and we cherished them.I heard her plead and defend herself to people who didn’t even bother to phone the rest of the year. Then we moved closer, only 800 miles away. I saw my Mother, who above all else, would drive two spoiled brats 18 hours across the Southeast just to see her family. We had to leave my Dad behind; not for Christmas Day mind you, but for the week after or the week before. Or maybe we only left in Summer, and all those phone calls were arguements as to why she just didn’t leave and come home for Christmas or New Years or Thanksgiving 800 miles away.
Why didn’t they just come to us?
So I sat typing on an iPhone in a Scottish Starbucks that serves pancakes instead of bagels. I didn’t get a week off. Thanksgiving’s not global. Yet my friend for Gaelic Language invited me to her flat’s party. Parents were flying in fro Germany. Students would be from- everywhere. It would have too much food. Too much wine. Too much fun? Anyway, I was still invited and I couldn’t say “No” to the shocked face I received as I explained I had absolutely nothing planned.
It was a house, on the corner of univerity campus. The white columed Victorian style that characterizes “British movie set.” The table sat fourteen. We had twenty. The beverages swayed on armrests and people’s laps. The television was in another room, and some had brought board games to play later. Vegan options were labeled with paper and tape. Vegetarian options in green, and meat was obviously displayed. The turkey was massive. There was ham. Bacon in the green beans. Marshmallows in the sweet potatoes. Asparagus by the dozens and vegetables by the pot full. There was cheese and grapes and butter and bread and clacking of glasses. No matter how much we ate, it looked as if we hadn’t even started.
Thanksgiving. Traditional, Thanksgiving, had never been quite so normal.
I walked home sober and full. Partiers of the night swaggerd from one club to the next. The women in high heels and covered shoulders, men in suits and ties, and I all I did was enjoy the decency of a walk home by the stars. It wasn’t even America, but I had felt more tradition than ever I had at a place people would call my “home.”
But I am too hard on this non-immediate family. They did come. Once or twice in the seven years we had been “separated.” They sent cards. They doted from afar. And I made friends and friends of the family that became our extended family. They gave us beautiful Christmas cards, and a wonderful Thanksgiving feast. They are also German. Maybe there is something about distance that brings people closer together.
Or perhaps I just like German cooking a lot.
Neither are lies, but I find it harder and harder to recognize the truth of my backstory. Where did I come from? What did I consider a home? Where did I want to live, when I’ve only known that I could never settle down? You see me as a world traveller. I see myself as a gypsy. Long forgotten in a world that has settled into cities and architecture built upon false traditions and a world of cement ruralism and concrete highways stacked against a sky as if say, “Let us in. We want out.”
The world is not as stoic or as scenic as we believe. It is simply the world we choose to live in. I wanted to find a home. Instead, I found a best friend. Now isn’t that better? It does not matter where I go, so long as I go with the people who care. Places cannot give themself meaning.The people who have been there, the people’s perceptions of that place, that gives it meaning. Gives it life.
so I hope my life is filled with as many good perceptions as I have been places. because People make the story worth telling.