I grew up nowhere.
For the 18 formative years of my life, I had no roots. I have no loyalty to Fairfax, Virginia. It's so up and coming, growing faster than the body that shot up awkwardly around my bones at age 13. I'm the first generation that could possibly call it, "my old stomping grounds." But honestly, who would want to? It's nowhere. It's nothing. No major battles were fought here, no historical sites to see. There's no old malt shop that's been open since the 50's, still owned and operated by the same family. There's no creek where we found a dead body that one summer. Just man made lakes where we smoked shitty weed out of apples and tin foil. It's nowhere. It's always going to be nowhere.
I may not be a history buff, but I know that history is
what makes things special. I don't even need to know the story behind
this old set of drawers that came off of my great grandmother's bureau. All I know is that it's been lived it. It has a story. It tells it's story on a
different frequency than is audible to the human ear. And to me, that means something. It
comes from somewhere. Some skilled craftman's hands put time and love
into it. It's seen things; fights, love making, birth, wedding days, death. It comes from somewhere. Fairfax, Virginia is
like the Ikea chest of drawers. It comes in separate, relatively easy to
assemble pieces. After you bitch and moan and beg your signifcant other
for help in putting the pieces together, you step back and take it all in.
Oh. It's just a slab of sleak, clean, pressed-wood product. I guess it looks
modern. Yeah, that looks nice I guess.
Let me start over...
I come from a military family, my father was in the army. We settled in white bread suburbia when dad retired because of the great schools, safe neighborhoods, close proximity to Washington, DC , and most importantly; it was smack dab in the middle of the east coast. Essentially between the two places my parents where raised.
Because I grew up nowhere, I have never strongly identified with my "home." When I tell my new Chicago friends now, "I'm going home." I have to correct myself. "Well... I'm going back to Virginia." It's not the same thing.
Okay, just go with me here, no matter how pretentious and "I went to art school" I sound. But I'm an actress at heart. I'm fascinated with the way real people talk, walk, and interact with each other and the world around them. I see myself in the world and how I deal with it, and I see others.
Because I never identified Fairfax as my "home." I grew up romanticizing my parent's home towns. Every summer I'd slip into their world, imagine what it would be like, play pretend and trick the locals into thinking I'm one of them. I've always be one of them.
Whether I'm picking peaches on my aunt's father's farm in South Carolina, or gossiping with the ladies at the hair salon in upstate New York, like a chameleon, I can fit in anywhere. I relish the moments I can be anywhere and pretending I'm someone else. I crave that pride. I have national pride, sure. After all, I am "proud to be an American"-- and what that means to me is a completely different rant-like blog post for a later date. But still. I want to identify myself with a place. I want to say, "I came from x" and I want people to immediately make snap judgements of me.
I want to be the country bumpkin southern belle from Georgia who at 13 drank vodka for the first time on her cousin's back porch after our parents went to bed. "Y'all! I can't feel my legs!"
I want to be that snot-nosed quick-witted New Yorker who is full of a million groaner jokes and sits around on lawn chairs on the driveway telling them in the dead of summer. My mother covering up my ears for the dirty ones my uncles care to share. Walking down the block to watch the firemen respond to the fender bender at Myer's Corners.
I want to be that girl, who knows the pain a fire ant's bite brings to a bare foot running through her grandfather's yard, dodging the fire crackers in the cul de sac on the fourth of July.
The girl that returns to the same salon, to see Dorothy every month. "Remember when ya grandmotha brought you herh? You were this tall. I painted ya nails fah free!" How could I forget?
Playing secret agents with my cousins. That old meat grinder was a walky talky, and the laundry chute a secret passage way. We'd send top secret notes via the clothes line off of the mud room.
My grandmother, whenever I'm back in town, still tries to set me up with the lifegaurd at her pool. Or so-and-so on the Alter Guild's grandson, he's so handsome! "Nannie. I live in Chicago now." "But he has a job! And Insurance! Such a nice boy... You know he takes care of his mother?"
I wish I could have that strong sense of communal identity. Everyone knows everyone. You grew up playing with the kid down the street and you still get brunch with them when you're back in town. You know? Athena's diner. It looks like all the other greasy spoon places on old route 9, but it's the one where they let you take home a free cookie from the bakery. The old lady that runs the place gave them away to every smiling child. She still spoils you. How come they're even still in business?
I don't have that because I grew up nowhere. Our stories are of the "woods"... you know, the park. Feeding Canadian geese stale bread. Trips to Costco where we'd get lost in the aisles. Oh! The pleasure of going to Fair Oaks mall, and not Springfield mall like usual. (They're the one with the Warner Brother's store where you can climb down Bugs Bunny's rabbit hole!) We lived our lives in cars and on highways.
I grew up in Ikea, Virginia. But I was raised somewhere else entirely.