Recently my 6 year-old son asked me "Mommy am I Jamaican?" My husband would love for him to think of himself that way, but in that moment I thought it was important to help him forge his own identity. I told him he is not Jamaican, but of Jamaican parentage. That seemed to satisfy him - for a while.
Some time later he asked, "Where am I from? Florida?" I said "Yes; Miramar, Florida." His next question, "If we live in New Jersey for a long time will I be from New Jersey?"
My not-yet-first-grader is already struggling with his identity. To a child that age, a year is a long time. His memories of our old house, his old schools, his old friends, are all beginning to dull. I understood and began to feel his concern.
We may very well move again in a few years. We may spend as much time in the next state as we do in this one. We leave behind, no land, no relatives, very little history. Where will my sons' roots be planted? Will they feel rooted at all? How will they identify themselves?
As my husband and I watched the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we saw people weeping for their great personal and material losses, but vowing to return to New Orleans from the places they took refuge. My ever-practical husband couldn't understand why they would want to return to 'the bowl.' I understood. New Orleans is what they knew. It had been their home for many generations. Their roots were planted firmly there.
Neither he nor I have any plans to return permanently to the land of our birth, but I still had a strong, stomach-twisting emotional reaction when my parents recently decided to sell my childhood home . None of us have lived there for many years, but I still unhappy about the sale. I felt like I was losing a chunk of my foundation.
To feel like you are losing bits of your roots - to a hurricane, to migration, to whatever - is painful. What must it feel like to not have roots at all?