Here is a post by a woman in rural Arkansas, describing how she’s never lived anywhere outside her home county. I looked it up, and its main claim to fame is the fact that it is one county up from the headquarters of Walmart, which you might already know is way the heck out in BFE.
The furthest I’ve ever lived from my childhood home in Gentry, Arkansas, is the home I live in now, just outside of Siloam Springs, Arkansas. 13.7 miles is all that separates me from the 300 acre “compound” where my paternal grandparents, parents, younger brother and his wife, and their two kids live. I’m the biological child who’s gone furthest from home. I’m 31, and I don’t plan on ever living further than those 13.7 miles from the house where I grew up.
…I have roots here. I teach at the same high school that my mom and her mom graduated from. My paternal grandfather and his siblings also attended the same school where I work, though most of them didn’t finish. I graduated from the same school system where my dad and his sister went. I live in the brick house that my maternal grandfather and his father-in-law built to my grandmother’s specifications.
I live just across the river from various cousins and a great aunt. My best friend’s parents still live in the house where she and I had sleepovers, and sometimes they watch my daughter. My family is rooted here. My stories are rooted here.
She goes on to describe various stories and relationships that not only define her experience in that rural county, but that also define who she is as a person. Along with family, these are the sorts of experiences that give everyone their background, no matter where they hail from. They are what keeps the vast majority of people rooted to where they grew up, assuming they don’t get displaced by war or poverty. Sure, a minority of people rebel and try to live somewhere else… but even they often return to the hometown as they get older, to the warmth of familiar places and familiar faces.
So it was with my own hometown… only, I personally never did get to enjoy having “roots” as understood by most people, including the above writer. One of the costs of having Asperger’s is having very few real relationships with people, mainly because nobody wants a relationship with the weirdo with poor social skills… which in turn means no shared memories, no bonding experiences and no nostalgia holding me to the Midwestern town where I grew up. I don’t regularly have contact with anyone from high school, college, or medical school. I don’t get to have any sessions of “Remember when” with anyone. The only part of my youth still relevant to me was the high school diploma… the rest may as well have never happened.
It also didn’t help that the childhood home was sold and replaced with a generic McMansion.
I’ve looked up people from high school on Facebook. (I can’t remember the names of even five people from college or med school. Combined.) Most of them are still in or near the hometown. Most of them have shared experiences and things and common and family and all the rest. You know. Roots. Even the ones who’ve moved to Boston or Denver still keep in touch and post on each others’ walls.
I envy that. I don’t have that.
So, what do people with no roots do? They drift. And drift I did, through this or that town, sometimes blowing through the hometown again, before finally landing where I am now, a place that finally gives at least grudging acceptance to me. Because the fact of the matter is, when you have no roots, you have only two choices: live your life as a vagabond, or else set up roots of your own.
It’s not easy. Especially in NYC… talk about upping the difficulty. But I want to create a sense of permanence, like I’m creating a new family out of thin air. Millions of immigrants have done it here; perhaps I can too. I hope to someday see my own children get their own places here in town with children of their own. Perhaps then, I will have some shared experiences to reminisce over in 2040 while Mayor Gaga opens the Galactic Olympics with a stirring rendition of that year’s smash pop summer anthem, “Holy Crap My Childhood was Weird” by North West.