Monday, July 14, 2014

The Long Journey Home

Sometimes I can vividly recall the day I left the Ohio (and the California) of my youth behind for Washington. First as a young bride, then as a single mom I learned to navigate life in and around the nation’s capital.

But trying to make my way into and through the adult world without any presence of mature wisdom to guide and support me, especially on-site, was more than a bit of a challenge. Yet Washington did become the fire pit of my maturing identity.

For thirteen years (1961 – 1974) Washington was not only the power center of the America I knew and loved, it was the center from which I was taking the cues for who I was to become  – or, as it turned out, reacting against what I was discovering there.

I once wrote a poem to my father, trying in that less than articulate ability of mine at the time, to tell him how lost I was feeling. As if a person was to be granted a personal set of values by which to live once you become a twenty-something. But somehow I had missed out on the set I was to have as mine.

I didn’t know how to make myself understood by him. So, of course, my father did not get what I was so feebly attempting to say. I wish I could find that poem now.  I keep looking for it every once in a while. It was so very poignant then. And, it still is now for me.

Around that same time I was trying to obtain permission and passage for my daughter and I to live in Israel on a Kibbutz.  “Making aliyah” the sojourn is called; the obligation of every good Jewish person to return to their homeland of Israel. 

I was making progress on the plan. Then the “Six Day War” broke out and it was no longer a viable option. After that is when I recall my anti-Semitism breaking out.

Upon reflection I see that my inclination to separate from my Jewish culture and heritage had been brewing for a while. The Six Day War may have brought it to a head. I think it was at that point I became consciously ashamed of being Jewish. Perhaps I was already, then, critical of Israel’s enemy offensives. But I believe I had been growing in this direction since high school.

Concurrently I could not identify anywhere else to go that I might call home. From Ohio I had totally cut myself off. Washington, probably, had been an attempt to breakaway without conflict.  And, of course, getting married was such an acceptable way to exit.

But the real deal about that was that my mother had had a nervous breakdown a while back.  And, along with her other outrageous behaviors, she had purposefully set out to destroy each and every relationship I had or could conceive of having. Intent on controlling any independent move I might make, she had imprisoned me behind invisible bars, by terrifying me with daily threats over my very life. Therefore, California, my beloved and safe harbor with my father, stepmother and brother was, thus, even too risky to consider.  Perhaps she could "get" me there too.

With Israel no longer a viable port of entry and Ohio and California also closed to me, Washington became my “home,” as much as any place could be.

With no discernable values by which to live and no place other than where I was then situated, the D.C. metropolitan area became all I could recognize as “home.” So this is where I stayed, incorporating Washington into the cellular structure of my soul.  Washington can become a rather soulful place, if one allows it,that can grow on you. It certainly had that effect on me.

We had come to Washington, my first husband and I, for JFK’s Camelot. By the time I had truly settled my body, mind and spirit there, the three tragic assassinations of the 60s occurred, JFK’s, Martin Luther King Jr.’s and Bobby Kennedy’s -- very hard that all was to make sense out of for an embryonic adult.

My birthday, coming up Friday, brings me to the one year anniversary of my writing my memoir in progress, Hot Pants, Motorcycles and K Street. Writing it has, as one of its agendas, to help me put that time, the era before Watergate, into some kind of contextual framework for understanding my personal life’s journey.

Additionally, today as I head for my special day of celebrating that “I am” I am, also, getting ready to make a pilgrimage to Ohio after many decades totally away.

So it is not so strange that I am asking myself, today, am I going home?

Or, am I already home out here in the mountains, fifty or so miles outside of Washington where I have now lived for almost one-third of my life?

Or, do I need to return to Southern California to be home?

Or, as turtles do, am I always carrying my home with me so that “home” is only a state of being wherever you are?

Worthy reflections, I think, as a prelude to celebrating “I am.”

Where is the place you call “home” and why is “it” that place for you?

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