[Quiet Thoughts] Insider/Outsider


Photo: It’s summer time and I’ve got two active little boys. This was taken before the dirt started flying. We’re having baths before lunch time every day now…


“Afterall, you are raising New Englanders…”–My Uncle

When we named our sons, we made sure that their middle names had some association with the D.C. area because we wanted them to have “home” with them wherever they may roam. “They may be born in Massachusetts, but they are of Maryland blood,” I told my former co-workers. “I’m a proud daughter of Maryland, and my boys are sons of Maryland.”

I spoke with my uncle in Maryland, last week on the phone. We spoke candidly about mom’s dismissal and impending move to Maryland. I shared my frustrations with him and my anxieties, too. I told him how angry I was that these New Englanders couldn’t appreciate her talent, and that the rules up here are just different than they are at home. It takes a lot to get used to–this place surely earns its reputation–but it can be done.

“Well, we think that the reason why you’ve adapted better than [mom] is because of your grad school experience. That certainly would have given you a hefty dose of New England identity.”

I told him that this was plausible, but I didn’t feel like the culture at school was particularly New England… as a matter of fact, it was pretty warm and fuzzy.

He wasn’t convinced. “Obviously you’ve learned how to adapt, you know? And we get that. You’ve been there a really long time and you found it acceptable enough to buy property there. And you really have to. After all, you’re raising two New Englanders.”

It’s a sentence that has been replaying in the back of my mind, even through the carpet chaos and the baby tantrums. It echoes because I know that in my heart it’s true, as much as my brain wants to lawyer us out of it. It also echoes, I think, because it’s the first time that the family down there let slack the tether that I often feel to home. We’re no longer Marylanders. We’ve been here too long. We’re New Englanders, and we’ve begotten New Englanders.

My Quiet Thoughts today swirl around identity: the kinds that we put on, the kinds that we keep, the ones that we tug on and eventually tear into little bitty pieces, the ones that we try to drape on but never really stick, and the ones that are stripped from us. I’m sitting here chuckling about how interesting it is that some things just don’t change between high school and the “real world.” You’re in or you’re out, and I have often found myself on the outside. No, my family isn’t booting me out or anything like that, but it’s an interesting thing to hear that their view of me has so shifted over time. I’m no longer Kyra of Maryland, the one who moved away but will be moving back home soon. I’m now Kyra of Massachusetts, raising two sons of another land, never to return.

This might seem hyperbolic, but it matters to me. I love what my home taught me, and the values of home are hardwired in my body, which is why learning the rules around here, especially in the suburbs, has been a hard, hard thing to do. I’m not the same little girl who got in a U-Haul to come up here to study, but I’m certainly the woman my home raised me to become. And it isn’t to say that New England values are wholly different from my own, but there are differences that matter to me, that will make me bristle as my sons inevitably learn them. I’m realizing that it will be impossible for me to raise Maryland sons in New England. I can only hope to raise my sons in New England and supplement them with Maryland values. I suppose it hurts to know that no matter what I do today and tomorrow, when they turn 30, Maryland will only be in their names and not really in their hearts.

On the flip side of this, all I can hear about from the family  now is  how much “easier” it’s going to be to visit. “You’ll have a place to stay,” they keep saying. “We’re going to make sure there is a perfect place for you and the boys here. You’ll be so comfortable and stay more often!” As if it’s about the stay and not about the journey: 8 hours, 2 babies, 4 states depending on which way you go. We usually have to stop twice and we usually share the driving. While I know I physically could make that entire drive by myself with two babies, I wouldn’t want to, nor would I think it wise to do so! When I tell folk that they really ought to consider coming up this way to  to see us, I get a lot of himming and hawing: “Where will we stay?” “What would we do?” “it’s such a long drive….”

I really loathe my in-laws, but they do make the effort to make that drive to share the travel burden. I’ll at least give them that.

I suppose that the slackening of the tether is really an opportunity: For me to choose to fully love where I live, not lean on local family but instead create my own network of support. We’ve done that in small ways: With our really awesome neighbor next door, with two of the moms from Ursa Major’s preschool… these are bonds that will strengthen and grow with time. Very slowly, over these past 8 years, we’ve become New Englanders, too. We’re outsiders now because we’re new and different, but we’ll wake up 5 years from now as full members of the club.

I’ve written a lot about my anxieties about being the new girl in town and trying to make my way into these very tight and exclusive places. I’ll write about it many more times in the future because it’s a hard thing to deal with for me. I know that this is very Millennial of me: I want that instant acceptance without any of the work. That’s about me and my headspace. I have to be more disciplined and understanding that, just as we had to work for this house and all the things we have, we must also work at becoming part of the social fabric of this community. Even still, this is an exhausting and steep road we’ve chosen, and I don’t really know what the end goal is. I’m not sure that exchanging my Marylander card for a New Englander one was really what I was going for.

It is Friday. The Friday before Memorial Day here in America. My grandfathers fought in World War II, my Father and paternal uncles served in the U.S. Army in different capacities, and I have a two close friends and former classmates who currently serve in the armed forces. I always make my sons say “Thank You” to veterans who we meet, because I want to instill that value in them early. There are men and women far from home doing dangerous work so that I, my husband, and my sons don’t have to. There are men and women buried in foreign soil so that I might write this emo stupid blog post and otherwise live a life unburdened by fear. This weekend isn’t just about burgers and the beach and I know that.

For you, dear reader, on this Friday, I wish you sunshine and a picnic blanket, a good book, a good sandwich and a cold drink. I wish you breezes bringing scents of sizzling fare to your nostrils and leisurely strolls up and down the buffet line in a familiar backyard. I wish you the giggle of a new acquaintance and the exchange of numbers. Or maybe the sight of your long-loved partner, having fun, looking youthful, and the memory of all the perfect summer days of years gone by. I wish you the laughter and screams of children, a ball kicked in your direction. I wish you the roar of the crowd at a baseball game, a foul ball hurdling toward your gloved and waiting hand. I wish you one morning to sleep-in and a well-prepared breakfast when you wake up. I wish you the start of summer joy, may it thaw away the last of our winter miseries.

In-law Post Monday if I survive or don’t end up in jail.

Until then, take care.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Have a great weekend as well!

  2. Miriam Joy says:

    It’s interesting to hear about what it’s like moving to somewhere completely different from where you’ve grown up etc. I’ve always lived in the same area — in the same house since before I was one year old, so that’s basically my entire life. In September I’ll be going to uni, and I’ll be spending half my time trying to figure out living in a tiny little city like Cambridge rather than the suburbs of a huge one like London … only to have to adjust back again every time I go home for the holidays. So that’s going to be weird. O.o

    ‘Identity’ as a concept is such a bizarre thing. Not least because other people always try and stick labels on you, even if they’re not ones you’d choose yourself, and it’s a matter of figuring out which ones you’re okay with and which one’s you’re not. There’s a line in a song: “everything is black and white except these choices that I’m making about the coloured boxes I could fit in.” I think it sums up a lot about trying to work out who you are as a person.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      I’m so excited for you and your upcoming uni experience! Where are you going? Are you over the moon?? I think that adjustment between home and school will be a lot easier than you think. And, eventually, you’ll just prefer one over the other anyway… likely school. 😛

      I think that your comments on identity are spot on. It’s a construct that comes from too many directions and it is hard to decide what it is that you want to keep iand own and what it is that you want to throw back at the universe. I suppose I’m learning a little something every day. Maybe it’s just ok to change and fully take on this geography as my home turf… or maybe, in the end, this will be a trivial thing that doesn’t matter. We’ll see.

      1. Miriam Joy says:

        I’m hoping to go to Cambridge, if I get the grades. If not, Leeds, which is rather further away, and the trains are a bit useless. Personally I can’t wait to go somewhere new — my hometown is boring, but I hate big cities like London, so one that’s smallish like Cambridge ought to suit me. 🙂

        1. K.C. Wise says:

          I hope you get in to where you want to! I’m sure you’ve got the grades! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. I don’t know anything about the process over there–when will you start applying and knowing if you’re in?

          1. Miriam Joy says:

            I applied in October, was told I had an interview in November, had the interview in December, and was made an offer in January. The offer depends on getting A*AA in any three of my four subjects — I’m in the midst of exams at the moment. I’ll get my results on the 14th August, and that’s when I’ll know where I’m going. If I miss it, I’ll either get into Leeds (with an offer of AAA), or I’ll have to go through a thing called “Clearing”, where universities who still have places available look at candidates who missed their offers and potentially give them a place based on what they did manage to achieve. 🙂 That’s all an over simplification, but that’s basically how it works.

          2. K.C. Wise says:

            That is the most stressful thing I’ve ever read in the entirety of my life. Has your process ALWAYS been this way?? In America, you do your apps in the Fall and usually hear back by April or May. That’s it. You’re in, you’re not, or you’re wait-listed. And then the big thing is about who gave you enough financial aid to make this worth your while.

            Sooo… I REALLY hope that you get the A*AA that you are working for!!! You must be so stressed out! I’m sorry!!

          3. Miriam Joy says:

            We have standardised exams that take place in May-June, which is why we have the “conditional offers”. They’re unified across the country, as opposed to being set and marked by the school, which is where the grades come in. That’s why our system is different.

            (But hey, we have government student loans that you don’t have to pay back until you’re earning over 21k, so… it’s not all bad, I guess?)

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