I I I I I I I  

DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE:
Where I'm from

When people ask me where I'm from, I never know what to say. Growing up as an Air Force brat, I never felt like I had a home. I had a loving family, and places to live, but we moved every few years, and we never stayed anywhere long enough for me to put down roots. I feel like an American, but I lack the bone-deep connection to the land that so many Americans feel (There's something ironic about the fact that growing up in the military robs you of the hometown roots that are the foundation of zealous patriotism).

I made friends wherever my dad was stationed and I had lots of pen pals from previous assignments, but children change quickly and friendships are hard to maintain through the mail. I was an avid reader and found my closest friends in books. In my reading, I visited many different places and times, but I especially enjoyed the cozy nursery stories of Edwardian England, with their almost fetishistic glorification of domestic life. As I grew older my Anglophilia grew with me - from Paddington and Peter Pan to The Dark is Rising, and The Railway Children, and then to I Capture the Castle and Dorothy Sayer's Lord Peter mysteries. The landscape of my childhood was the English countryside.

Despite my nomadic childhood, I didn't make it to England until I was an adult. But when I finally got there it was like coming home. There were the streams and riverbanks where Rat and Mole messed about in boats, the lush green countryside that C. S. Lewis transplanted to Narnia, the dreaming spires of Oxford where Lord Peter courted Harriet; all the details that had been lovingly described and reiterated from text to text, until they became as much a part of my world as the pine forests of East Texas that my grandparents called home, or the Canadian Rockies, glimpsed through the windows of a yellow van heading north. Coming to England wasn't like visiting a foreign country, it was like returning to a place that I'd known once, long ago, and had been homesick for for years. I had lived with that landscape inside my head for so long, I don't think I realized it could be real, that some version of that idyllic English countryside actually existed.

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It took me 32 years to get there the first time, and only 18 months to get back. And the second time, to the horror of almost everyone I know, I took my children with me. Everyone asked, "What's in England? Are you going to visit family?" That would have been acceptable. But to gallivant across the Atlantic with three small children in tow just for the fun of it seemed like a symptom of insanity to most of my friends and acquaintances.

I'd already been preparing the kids for it - Beatrix Potter, A. A. Milne, J. R. R. Tolkien; in their reading I was training them in Anglophilia. And, having been thoroughly indoctrinated, they were ready and eager to go, to see the stone circles and crumbling keeps and the forest where Robin Hood hid from the Sheriff of Nottingham. And we had a wonderful time, wandering in the hills of Wales, playing King Arthur in Roman ruins, and discussing medieval court-life in the remains of castles. The kids were delighted with Kensington Garden and the British Museum, and their joy made these places even more special to me. Yes, we'll be paying for the trip for the next longer-than-I-like-to-contemplate, and it was chaotic and unpredictable traveling with such young children, but it was absolutely worth it.

In some ways, I'm just passing on a family legacy of roving. "On the go" was standard operating procedure throughout my childhood, and I don't really know any other way to function. Those who were baffled by our desire to travel with our children often opined that the kids wouldn't remember it anyway, so what's the point of taking them, as if the only value in travel is in reflection and memory. Even if our children don't remember any of the trip (and it's likely the younger two won't), they enjoyed it while they were there. Also, they're learning the how-to's of travel, which will serve them in good stead as they get older.

I suppose, like all parents, I dearly want to inculcate my children with my own particular tastes and interests: Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate ice cream, steamed crab legs, liberal politics, historical fiction, travel - I keep pushing it on them, in some (possibly misguided) attempt to make them over in my own image. And of course, they'll probably rebel against all of this (I have a horror, not that my children will be anti-authoritarian, wild-haired hippies, but that they'll be anti-intellectual, Republican homebodies), but for the moment, the lessons seem to be sticking. I nearly burst with pride when we boarded the plane to come home, and Drew immediately found his seat, arranged his pillow and blanket, put on his headphones, and got out his book, operating with the smooth aplomb of a seasoned traveler.

Where am I from? Everywhere and nowhere; from the road and from the pages of the books I love. And that's where I'm raising my children as well. After all, there's no place like home.
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About the Author:

Melissa Lipscomb lives in Austin with her children Drew, Franny, Alec and husband Adam. Some days she feels like she's figuring out, and others she's just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Send feedback for Melissa to disturbance@austinmama.com and visit her blog

 

I I I I I I I  

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