Staying Put or Moving On – Roots or No Roots

by Bella Rum

Are you a staying-put kind of person or a moving-on kind of person?

On Saturday, in 100 plus degrees and dense, soggy air that turned the slightest movement into an underwater sport – slow and wet – we drove up to see the kids. I’ve never been so grateful for A/C. I thought about packed-up covered wagons and sweating individualists, and how they may have carried a special treasure from a grandmother they would never see again, or other small pieces from their former lives, but mostly basic requirements for survival, trying desperately to keep a little of the old life while thirsting their way to a new one. The West never would have been settled if it were up to me. I’d still be in the East… which I am.

The kids moved to a new city (a little closer to us) and a new job for my son – with the same company. My daughter-in-law is a professional mover by now. She would make a good nomad. She can make a home wherever they land. Those kids are not of-the-earth. They have shallow, fibrous roots that spread quickly just beneath the surface and can transplant, if not easily, successfully. They are flexible; they bend when the winds demand it. That’s a requirement for many of their generation. They must live where the job is instead of finding a job where they live. It’s the nature of many careers now. I’m not built for that. I like to get comfortable, count on things, grow deep roots and stay put. They accept change, and seem to thrive. A good thing because that’s their lot.

I still visit the place I grew up. Most of the people I knew then are gone now, but the place, the river, the land never moves. It still feels solid to me. My brother, aunt and cousins still live there, and that keeps me connected. My son once took the Grand Trio back to our old neighborhood in MD where he grew up. My grands will not have one single place to return to, a single house to point to, a place where they can say, “This is where I grew up.” But they will have family; their parents and grandparents will embody home for them. They may have to rely on their own resilience, but don’t we all? Even though the place we grew up may stir our memories, our resilience ultimately springs from those who raised us and knew us and taught us, and from our own insides.

The grands were happy as clams in their new digs, proud of their rooms and curious about their treelined and yet-to-be-discovered neighborhood. And, yes, I went outside – in the heat – and watched from a lawn chair as they rode their skateboards down a long hill and trudged back up with seemingly no ill effects from the brutal heat. At what age does imperviousness to heat and cold come to an end?

We soon took a welcome reprieve to watch a “scary” movie – one of the four-year-old’s favorites. She loves scary movies. She’s so little and sweet and loves to be scared to death. She never admits to being scared, but her little fingers begin twining and untwining as the music intensifies and the action builds to the scary parts. She comes honestly by this love of getting the dickens scared out of her. I’m a lover of roller coasters and spine-tingling  books and scary movies. It’s so much fun when the part of your brain that controls fear is tweaked while another part of your brain knows there is no real danger, only perceived.  She also wanted so very much to tell me what was going to happen next. My son kept telling her not to tell me. She kept saying, “But she doesn’t know.”

Exactly! Roots or no roots, we never know what’s next. It’s all a scary, wonderful or not-so-wonderful, crazy ride. It’s everything, it’s all things, it’s all jumbled up, but one thing for sure, we don’t know what’s next.

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