The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Home Sweet Wherever

first posted July 20, 2014

vintage-map

La

I grew up in more than comfortable circumstances. My family was not rich, exactly, but well-to-do and influential. My father was an important government official so he held some sway in the community. People deferred to him, which was a kind of wealth. My mother had been born very rich, descendants of a royal family, although their influence had faded. In that regard, they were impoverished. My parents’ marriage was one of convenience — her wealth for his influence, and then, both together, they were back on top.

I lived in a big house with servants until I was about ten. Then came a huge shift in political power and my father lost his position. My mother’s family money and assets were seized. Overnight, we had nothing.

I knew something was wrong, of course. My parents were arguing a lot; my mother was crying all the time; my father was sullen and angry. We had to move from our large home with many rooms and fine furniture into a small house near my grandparents’ property.

The adults were always whispering amongst themselves. I could sense their fear but none of it affected me…or so I thought. I was just as happy being in the country, having my grandparents close by. Now my mother looked after me – not a nanny or a servant – and I was happy to have her attention, although she was often weepy and distracted.

After a few years, our situation became dangerous, so the family made plans to leave the country. We sold whatever was left of value – which wasn’t much anymore. In any case, not too many people were buying.

We left together, and passed through a few countries, living here and there for a few months or a year. Money was always a problem because neither my parents or grandparents had any real practical skills, and none of them spoke any other language well enough to blend in or get by.

Finally, we ended up in a place where my parents found others like themselves. In this community, well, I won’t say they flourished, exactly, but they were able to find work teaching.   They slowly, eventually, learned the language and customs of the new place, but there was always something sad and broken about them until the day they died.

I was a child, of course, so I was better able to adapt. I was quickly able to pass for a native. I grew up and forgot about our old life and made my new life in a new place.

I went to school, got married, had children who were even more “native” than I ever was.

When I was much older — my children were grown and had moved on with their own lives; my husband had been dead for several years — the regime in my country of birth fell. I felt drawn to return, to reclaim my history, to see what might have been.

The city, the land of my earliest memories was gone. War and deprivation had changed not only the physical landscape but the cultural and social character as well. These were no longer “my people” but a country of strangers. It was only then that I felt that I had no place to call home, no place where I could be accepted as “one of their own.”

I had no childhood roots anywhere except everywhere, which was nowhere.

I eventually moved back to my adopted country. It was closer to a home than anywhere else. It was where I went to school, fell in love, got married, raised my family…but a piece of me now felt missing, like a big jigsaw puzzle minus one critical piece. Most of me was intact. The picture was clear.   But I would never be complete, never be whole.

It was with this knowledge, with this understanding and sadness in my heart, that I finally came to the end of my life.

____

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