I grew up in a different world. A world filled with french bread and yummy cheese, with snacks made of bread, butter and chocolate, with classy children’s clothes and outdoor markets. I grew up in France, and for the first seven years of my life that was the only world I knew.
A few days before my seventh birthday we moved from our lovely Paris home to an even nicer place in Rye, NY. I went from being a city child to a true American suburbanite. I learned to walk to school and go home at 3 instead of 5pm. I spent summers in my bathing suit going from neighbor’s house to neighbor’s house. In the winter I wore my snowsuit to school and changed in the hall with all of my friends. It was more than just a different world, it was a different universe.
By the time America grew to feel like home we were off again. London, England this time, and once again I had a slew of new customs and habits to get used to. By this time I was a little older and a little more aware of my surroundings. I attended an American school and had few British friends. Even though the language was the same, everything else about England was different and it took much longer to get used to living there. Eventually I found my place and I grew to love London.
And then we moved again. Back to France, a skip and a hop across the Channel. A world away nonetheless. I remember sitting at my desk in my new bedroom near Paris, sobbing to myself “I just want to go HOME!” The problem was that I couldn’t figure out where home was supposed to be. We’d been mere visitors in NY, even more transient in London. To all extents and purposes, I was home, it just didn’t feel like it at all.
That strange feeling of not belonging stayed with me for a long, long time. Even when I found my french roots and settled back into Parisian life I still had moments when I felt like a true outsider. To my French friends and family I never stopped being the American one. To myself I was always both.
I stayed in France for years. I went to high school and college. Made great friends and lived the French life. But I never strayed too far from my American side. I devoured English language books, saw American movies in their “original version” (English with sub-titles), found a few fun American restaurants, I even majored in English Literature. The French was strong in me, but it had some stiff competition.
The summer I turned 24 I interned in a NY advertising agency. I slipped right back into my American skin and in a heartbeat felt right at home. I never really went back to Paris. I met my husband that summer and just went back to pack up my life and move to Boston. M and I lived in France for a year before moving to California, and we’ve been here ever since.
This summer I turn 30, I’ve lived half of my life in France and half of my life in the United States. If you ask me where home is, it’ll take me a minute to answer. Home is here, and home is there. My roots are divided. France is the home of my childhood, America is where my life is. Some days I feel French, some days I feel American, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. I have no desire to live there, yet I miss it terribly. This place is so very different, so very foreign to my native land, yet I feel so at home here.
Sometimes I run into people who have lived all over the world. It barely takes a few minutes for the kinship to become apparent. We are the ones without roots, the tumbleweeds. Sometimes I envy the people who know where they come from, who can point to “Home” on a map, who have a place to run to when they need nurturing. But at the end of the day, I think we are the fortunate ones. The world is our home, our roots are everywhere.