Thursday, November 29, 2012

history and memory

Tomorrow I leave Pitesti and then Friday morning, before the sun even comes up, I will be on a plane headed west. All my life, in order to go home, I had to travel east, toward the ocean. Home was toward the sand and the pines, a place as far as you could go. I think of the line of the coast, growing up on the edge of a continent.

Tonight my dad put up pictures of the men in his family on facebook. That is an impossible sentence, one I never expected to write. My French family I never knew, a culture and a language I might have learned if I'd grown up with--this is how he refers to them--["my"] Pepe and Meme. There were eight kids, four boys and four girls. Now three of the four sons have died, both parents, and I don't know the first thing about three of the four daughters except that one has a daughter of her own living in Paris. And from the fourth sister I have a cousin, one I've never met but talk to on facebook, who looks more like me than anyone on my mom's side. And they live in the Bay Area, where my mom was born, a place for more and more reasons I'm feeling more and more connected to.

It feels like so many things are converging, lines overlapping until it becomes a solid thing. Imagine a city from space, the bright concentrated center, lights spider-webbing outward. Except the motion is inward. Not toward a place, exactly, but some shared, common thing. I can't articulate it yet--I don't understand. And there's more to it that I'm not writing, but I wonder, what's God doing with this?

Every time I sit down to write lately, it comes back to this. The idea of home, I mean. There's this, watching the bones of a history I first saw four years ago fill out. Watching it all connect to so many things that are true now, both new and old, seeing the way history and memory weave themselves into a thing with flesh. (Oooh!, but I don't think either of these are what puts the heart to beating--real, but not living?)
And then there's the fine line between identifying and being identified by--I look at these pictures and we all seem to have the same eyes, the same hands even, and yet it is not in their image that I was made.


I left this off to talk to a friend and by now the thread is gone. So many thoughts, and all of it underscored by the uncertainty of what follows December. Thinking about this place, the homeless man to whom we gave a half-eaten kebab that no one could finish, then realizing what we were doing, spent the next few hours wishing we'd at the very least bought him a new one and had given him that. The woman today who discovered I wasn't Romanian because, she said, she noticed I thought before I spoke. And the way I thought about that on the walk home, how in English you would have said that I needed to think, not just that I thought. Besides the unintended social commentary it made me wonder if I might want to be marked by that, among other things. Being pensive, pausing, considering my words.

Anyway, these are the things I'm leaving with, these are the pictures of Pitesti that will stay with me the next few weeks. Coming back home richer in both the understanding of a history and fuller in the sense of what I remember about where, for now, I'm leaving. Thinking about ten hours above the ocean, rocketing between those two things, wondering what they'll make themselves into.

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