Saturday, July 08, 2006

"Where are you from?"

I am at a family reunion in Centralia, Illinois. Centralia is as close as anything I know to being my hometown. Does one have to have lived in one's hometown?

I was born in Monterey, California, but moved from there before I was a year old. I have moved 21 times since then, lived on both coasts, the midwest, and the far east. Between moves, once, when I was in fourth grade, we stayed in Centralia for about a month and a half.

When people ask me where I am from, I usually name the town I live in at the time. (Though sometimes I simply say "yes") Though I have only lived in McGregor for 2 1/2 years, I am now in a sense "from McGregor."

Jacob Heyduck came to the United States in the mid nineteenth century and settled in Centralia. My grandpa, Floyd Heyduck, as far back as I knew in the family, lived here all his life. My family visited here about yearly as I was growing up. Even now, when I come to Centralia to visit, I feel, somehow, I am from here.

I think that one difficulty a lot of us have these days is rootlessness. Good Americans, we are told, deny their heritage and the culture their family emigrated from. We are all supposed to learn English, but the English would tell you ours is a rather crude version of the language.

One quarter of the US population moves every year. For sanity's sake, some children disconnect from their families of origin as soon as they are old enough. Many do so for a variety of reasons on the opposite end of the spectrum from sanity.

In the face of this rootlessness, I have to think that having a hometown is a good thing. Even if one has never really lived there.

Everyone needs someplace to be from, don't they?

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At 7:33 AM, Anonymous David Alexander said...

I know exactly what you're talking about... I usually say that, "I'm from central Texas." The only consistency in my life has been my grandmother's house in Fort Worth. It's weird not having a hometown.

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Carol said...

I think that is why I wanted to be in one place before Patrick started school. I hated changing schools. I was so shy! (I know you don't believe it, but it is true) He has a place that he is "from" and has to be accountable to not just me, but others in the community. And he knows that the younger children are looking up to him, just as he looks up to the high schoolers.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger John said...

My wife and I just visited my folks in Birmingham. They've moved out of their apartment that I lived in from the age of 12 on and built a house an hour south. Having been continously on the move, about every two years, it was kind of jarring. I hadn't realized how much that that old apartment was a psychological anchor. I kept Birmingham as a nominal hometown, but now I really don't have any at all. It's an odd feeling; like losing an emotional safety net that I didn't know that I had.


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