I’ve lived in three states in three diferent regions of the country. I was raised in the West with big sky and big dreams. As an adult and young mother, I moved to Maryland, arguably the narrow entrance to the northeast. And now I live in a small house that sits on a small hill next to a small river in the heart of the South. I admit that my sensibilities are softened to the openness of the West, the genteelness of the South and offended by the coldness of the Northeast, scarred by limitless possibilities and big city life.
I guess I’m a country girl at heart, prone to the privacy of a house in the middle of a piece of land with neighbors that know everything about you but nothing about the color of your walls, feeling comfortable with the growing paradox of needing a Target within a half-hour’s drive and the freedom of not having to shop there.
When I’m honest with myself, the soundtrack of my life begins with the Oakridge Boys and the Statler Brothers, continues with Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, interludes with Dolly and Kenny, and continues with whatever they play on my local country station. My dad, a drugstore cowboy, always called the music of my childhood Country and Western. And I think for some reason it’s the title that sticks with me when I think about my home.
But now, my literal home is illusive. It varies because of my husband’s job, where the endless paths of his dreams lie, where my “family” is. But, I’m continually torn about where my home is. Is it the ground of my upbringing, the metropolitan areas where money and prestige wait with expectancy, or the fertile and lonely, tree crushed land of my current residence? Hjumpa Lahiri’s character Ashima describes her experience of being a foreigner as a lifelong pregnancy, “a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been an ordinary life” (The Namesake, 49-50). And I feel it. I feel something that I longed for as a girl who moved once in her childhood to a home down the street. I feel different. And although I’ve only been pregnant twice, I feel the pregnant feeling of foreignness tire my back, flatten my feet, and create a growing sense of unease, a feeling only matched by the need to make it stop.
A couple of years ago, I was flipping through the channels after putting my babies to sleep. On one of the local stations, I was arrested by what I saw. There were mountainous peaks and clear valleys. I could almost feel the dry air and the sparse shade from the trees. I warmed in the arrid sun and joyed in the crisp cool of the breeze. I stayed there, transfixed by this gift, this gift of what I thought was a vision of my home in the West. And then a baby cried, and the dirty dishes called, and I went back to my life.
But everytime I hear Johnny Cash’s “The Legend of John Henry” or Willie’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” or the Oakridge Boys’ “Thank God for Kids,” I suddenly remember where my home is. It’s here, in my memories, in my music, in my life. And as always, it’s illusive. But not too far away to ever quit the search.
What’s the soundtrack to your life?