Saturday, October 13, 2007
Where I Hang My Hat
Throughout my childhood, my father's job took our family from place to place, each stay lasting three years at the longest. While most of my classmates never ventured out of their little neighborhoods, I already counted on my fingers the towns I had called home. The flip side was that I usually had to leave the friends I'd just barely got close to, but as a kid I adjusted quite well to a new environment.
It was not so easy when I grew a bit older, when friendship meant more than just a playmate, took a longer time to forge and acquired new emotional significance. Plodding through my teen years and early adulthood in a geographically diverse manner, I knew the pain of disruption and the burden of starting from scratch, but I also learned how to deal with short-term attachments. It was all right, I guess, except that I was still stumped whenever someone asked me where I came from.
Then came the big move to another continent, where I changed my sleeping place almost as often as a restless vagabond. By this time I had streamlined my material baggage to a state that would get an approval from any hardcore ascetic, and my friends often expressed their astonishment at my meager belongings. However, what occasionally aroused some regret in me was not possessions, but the sense of rootlessness.
That feeling of drifting still follows me like a faint malaise, and I doubt it will go away any time soon. I haven't quite settled down in my new country, and in the old one I never really belonged to any place. I don't have an old family home, where in the musty attic I could dig out a teddy bear I used to hold or a sample of my first scrawling. I don't have a hometown, where the elderly people in the neighborhood would still remember me as a child clutching at my mother's hand for that first walk outdoors. Without roots, the memory of my innocence is so scattered it's as good as completely lost.
I suppose the bright side of rootlessness is that there is no attachment to hold me back, and I can truly embrace the liberating spirit of home being where I hang my hat. Still, just once in a very long while, I wish I could hang my hat somewhere that goes back a longer way.