I’ve been doing a great deal of work on my family tree- tracing my ancestors and learning their names. They appreciate the recognition and I want to ensure my name and the names of my blood are repeated and acknowledged by my descendants.
I’ve spent a great deal of time imagining these descendants, these children I don’t have. Imagining what I’ll teach them and the stories I’ll whisper to them as they fall asleep about their grandparents and great-grandparents. The recipes and tricks I’ll pass down and the traditions I’ll forge new with help from their tiny hands.
I don’t have any children yet. I am young. I have time.
It’s a strange thing to have children, stranger still is to raise them in a foreign land. My family is a product of immigration. I am second generation born in the United States from Germany and third generation born in the United States from Italy- this is not the land of my ancestors. Even my parents, raised in New York and southern California, come from a different land than I.
My mother’s home is the ocean, warm sandy beaches and cool surf.
My father’s home is the city with towering skyscrapers that obscure the sky.
I am from none of these places. I am a creature of mountains. A daughter of grey rains and dark skies. I am a child of the evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest.
But my children will not share this with me, my children will be of yet another land. They will grow up knowing the mightiness of the sun and blue skies that are unending. They will be creatures of open plains and unyielding heat. When I talk of rain that never stops and a grey chill that permeates your skin and soaks into your bones, when I talk of the dense forests of my childhood they won’t understand.
I wonder, is this a taste of what my grandmother felt raising the first of her family not born born in Germany, not born in Berlin? Is this what my great-grandparents felt raising their children so far from their ancestral shores of southern Italy?
What is the price of this familial disconnection from the land? What is the benefit?