home and from

The boys watching a millipede at what they call "our old, old home"
I wonder what my kids' concept of "home" will be as they grow up, how they will define their "from." In Kenya, it's common for people to build a house on their rural family land, then rent a house or apartment in the city where they work. "Home" is their family land. Their place in the city is just where they stay when they are working. They may move here or there for years at a time for work, but they maintain the same Home for life.

A nomad from birth, I have an abnormal sense of home and from. When asked where I am from, or where my home is, all I can say definitively is Texas. The next question (from anyone who knows Texas) is: What part? Texas is big; which part of Texas one is from is significant. I am from a lot of parts of Texas. Most of them, actually. Rodgers says I have no home because to him, home is "the place one belongs permanently." And I have no permanent place. Neither do my parents, so I can't claim theirs. I lived in 14 residences with my parents, all in the United States. I have lived in 14 more since leaving for college. My parents have moved several times since I moved out. In fact, they moved again since I last visited them.

My own kids have lived in 5 different houses (all before Ben turned 3), in 2 countries. They are nomadic as well. On the other hand, they do inherit family land and Home from Rodgers. But on the first hand again, we don't live there. And also on the first hand, society here views them as "other," not as Kenyan. We use other people's perception of us (or our perception of their perception - confused?) in defining our own identity, thus I see their future selves identifying more as American and mzungu since they are always called that here. On the other hand again, if they were raised in America, they would probably see themselves more as Kenyan, even though they would act more American - because societies are all culturally exclusive, and they would still be considered "other" if we lived there.

In conclusion, this is not yet concluded. How will they define "from" and "home?" Time will tell...


Popular Posts