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.