Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Roads That We Follow

My husband recently asked where I would live if I had the opportunity to live in Asia. After I named a handful of locations he shook his head and said, “What about Shanghai?” To that point I had not recognized that his question was not hypothetical. 

 Fossils indicate that the first anthropoid existed in Chinese Territory 45 million years ago. Dawenkau  tombs dating to10, 000 BC offers archeologists evidence that complex civilizations that farmed, kept livestock , made pottery and textiles existed at that time. The Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1050 BC) provides archeological finds of weapons, knives, arrowheads, hairpins and even bells. The belief that China is one of the cradles of civilization is well founded in these facts. In around 1644 during the Qing Dynasty, Shanghai became a major port of trade. Today Shanghai is one of the world’s busiest ports and China’s financial center.

My Mitochondrial DNA Halphogroup is F, which means that my mother’s ancestors likely originated in eastern China. This is no surprise given that my mother immigrated to the states from Indonesia by way of the Netherlands and that she has always claimed that both her parents were half Chinese.  As a child I thought about my maternal ancestry a lot. I often tried to imagine the lives of the women that had come before me. I wondered about how they saw themselves, what they loved and what they believed about the world around them. I somehow felt and still do, that these women hold a wisdom that I need to understand better. The thought that I will soon live in a country whose soil holds the roots of my ancestry both intrigues and frightens me. I have so much to learn and my mind can barely comprehend the enormity of it.

A few days ago we traveled Interstate 70 east to visit a university with my 17 year old daughter. I woke at 4:00 a.m, the morning that we left, in a panic. What kind of mother leaves the country as her daughter enters her first year of college? Who would be there to smooth her hair back, hold her face in her hands and inhale the scent of her when she returned for her first weekend home? How alone might she feel with the knowledge that no one would open her bedroom door and witness the emptiness? How could I separate myself with so much distance from the child, who at age three after watching a program on conjoined twins, declared that we were conjoined at the heart? As we drove east through the darkness I tried to comfort myself by telling myself that international students leave their parents to study without the hope of seeing them for a year and sometimes longer.  I told myself that kids leave their homes to attend universities thousands of miles from home within the US and that their situations truly were not so different. My husband’s rested his hand on my knee as a silent show of comfort and yet the guilt remained and rested heavily on my heart.

Three and a half hours later we arrived at a small engineering university tucked into the beautiful Missouri hills. We were given a tour, met with the head of architectural engineering, ate in the student commons and visited dormitories when Olivia declared that she had found her school. Her father and I, also enchanted by the tiny campus, breathed a sigh of relief.

The next morning with the sun rising behind us we traveled west on Interstate -70, back to our home.  The sun shone on the rocky cliffs that served as a back drop to the colorful trees. Though it was not said we all knew that a new chapter had begun. The sense of change was very present and almost tangible. Olivia sat in the back seat with her ten year old brother with whom her heart is also conjoined. They argued and laughed and played the same music that I have heard over and over again throughout the last months. The car fell silent to the lyrics,

Cause we are
We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we're miles away
So we'll come
We will find our way home

If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on, Carry on…

I was able to conceal, but not stop the tears as they poured from my eyes. I was struck by the landscape that has defined my existence with the realization that new landscapes will soon define me. I looked out of the window and saw a small car, filled to capacity with the belongings of the driver who stared straight ahead, serious faced and lost in thought.  The windows of his car revealed the layers of his life that he carried with him, clothes, pillows, blankets. It was not hard to see that he was traveling without the careful preparation of boxes neatly packed into a moving van. The seriousness of his face revealed an apparent sadness and perhaps an end and a new beginning.

The roads that we travel carry us into our future. We speed through our lives with the anticipation of what is next. We wind through hills and valleys and are given a view of the opulence and beauty that life holds.  The roads that we follow can take us away from those we love but into new experiences that will serve as layers of who we are and what we will become. Our children travel in new directions with opportunities to draw in the vast knowledge that will map their futures. Meanwhile our hearts remain conjoined.

1 comment:

  1. I read. Nice article !
    I wish you had a nice traveling ^__^