On having Roots and/or Wings

A secret, unfulfilled dream of mine is to stay in one place and develop lasting relationships over the course of several decades. I’m not wired that way – to stay – but I admire it, and every once in awhile I look at my parents or other friends and family who have pulled this off and think, If only…

There’s a lot of talk in parenting circles about wanting to give children roots AND wings, and I think this is a lovely image. But for me it’s been an either/or kind of thing, and in the card game of life, I pulled the one labeled “wings.”  I go places. Every few years I move.  At some level, I like it that way. But every right turn we take in life means missing out on whatever was off to the left.

images(And I’m cracking up right now because when I Googled for an image to illustrate this roots/wings point, I found this picture of a woman with three birds that look eerily like the three pigeons that have been perched outside my bedroom window all morning, flinging themselves at the glass. This has never happened before. Now I think it might be a sign…)

I’m thinking about this today after reading a wonderful post from Nina Simone about going back to the house she grew up in, the place her parents still live. She talks about what a gift their stability has been – how rather than moving on up, they resisted the cultural current that says, “GO. CHANGE. FAR. FAST!” and instead stayed in one place and built additions to their house whenever new people arrived needing welcome.

The opposite of this cultural current (I guess you’d call it “STAY. BE. HERE. NOW” which sounds like a trippy Ram Dass mantra from the 70s) eludes me. I get antsy if I’m in the same place for too long. I thought Cambridge might be the exception to this rule, because everyone else moves through this city with such speed that it’s always new and different. But then I saw that stupid yarn cozy the lady down the street knit to warm/decorate/defile the signpost in front of her house and realized that when the aggressive crafters move in, my time here is probably over.

Still though…roots. My favorite part of Nina’s blog today was when her husband commented on her parents’ choice to stay in that one house for so long, to be the place where generations of family and friends can return again and again.  He asked her, “Do you know what it costs to be that stable?” 

What a question. It’s fabulous, acknowledging the sacrifice of choices that go into building a life.  Jesus advised his disciples that wise builders don’t start a project without counting the cost, which means both “Do I have what it takes to pay for this?” and “Will it be a good investment of what I have?”

I don’t have answers to this yet. But it’s what I’ll be thinking about today.

5 thoughts on “On having Roots and/or Wings

  1. Shoot, this is excellent. I can definitely relate. It’s the existential crisis I’m muddling through at the moment as I’m torn between the massive love I know here in Mass and the adventure we begin in *gulp* in 9 days on the way to Virginia. Roots are here, wings are rising to spread. It’s going to be a challenge, looking for that balance…

  2. Once again, thought provoking. Thank you. Having just made the annual August visit to my “hometown” I’ve found myself a bit turned upside down. In past years it’s been a centering time for me but this year I was more aware of the “costs” of living in one place for one’s whole life. I think what my family sees as advantages I see as costs. that being said I see the beauty in the relationships my grandmother, age 83, has maintained. She’s had the same best friend since she was 4. As she ages there are people all around to support her. My son commented that his papa “knows everyone.” Both my son and my dad are very extroverted and I could see the awe and enticement for my son. My son is the one who starts asking in January what day the pond party will be when we go to Ohio in August. He also asks about Thanksgiving with my husbands family in NC starting in January. This to me feels like roots, even though I’ve flown far away several times and can’t imagine moving back. But oh to be known, I do so long for and love when that happens.

  3. My mom has lived in the same house she bought almost 40 years ago, in what was once a charming, tiny town and is now a medium-sized, more-generic town. Our street, however, has remained mostly the same. It’s strange for me to go back there. In some ways it is exactly the same (with a few improvements and updates, of course), but in most ways I am so different than I was that I hardly feel that I belong there anymore.

    Excellent post.

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