“Where are you from?”
It seems like such a simple question, right? It just a question of geography. When you visit an unknown (or even a known) place, people will often ask you where you hail from. You probably don’t even think twice when you tell them. You probably grin with pride (or possibly disdain if you really don’t like it) when you mention your hometown, state or country. Amazing how four short and simple words can completely trip my family up.
For me, it’s an easy question. I was born and raised in good ol’ Northern California. I didn’t leave there until I was 23 and married. Because it’s where I grew up and where my ‘rents still reside, that’s where I’m from. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. For Husband, it’s not quite as easy. He claims California as well, as that’s the place where he lived the longest. So, kind of easy, right? My poor kids on the other hand, well, they don’t have it as easy as us.
When Husband chose his profession, we knew that there would be a lot of uprooting. It was the only con to the rest of the pros in our situation. Financial stability, relatively decent job security and a means of having a source of income. Dad-In-Law had a very similar position when Husband was growing up, so Husband had an idea of what he would be getting into. Husband chose his profession AFTER we got married…which for many in similar professional backgrounds as his is usually not the case. With the volatility of relocation, and considering how young we were (22) at the time, we didn’t really think a lot about how all of this would affect our future kids.
Boy Child was born 2 years after we got married, when we were living in Texas. He has lived in 4 states and 2 countries thus far. Three years after Boy Child arrived, Girl Child graced us with her presence while we resided in Japan. She has lived in 3 states and 2 countries. Boy Child has gone to 4 schools and will be starting his 5th tomorrow. Girl Child has been luckier and has gone to 2 schools and starts her 3rd tomorrow. They amaze me with the amount of resilience and grace they show when they realize that they will again be the new kids in school. While the constant relocating and adventuring don’t seem to faze them, the inevitable question of “Where are you from?” always does.
We decided to go back to Metz yesterday to explore while the sun was out and the markets open. We learned very quickly that Metz is a completely different beast when everything is open. The Marché Couvert was insanely busy. People were racing to get their numbers at the butcher counters and there was a flea market extravaganza set up in the square outside of the cathedral. We wandered through the market rather quickly and didn’t stop. We ate at Chez Gregoire again, but it wasn’t quite as magical as the first time. Then again, my brain kept freezing up when it came to using my French. Husband even attempted to give me a pep talk to help build my confidence, but it just wasn’t working as well as before. After we finished lunch, we went over to a gelato counter and asked for a couple of cones. As I was rambling off in my butchered French, the man behind the counter stopped me and started speaking to me in English. He looked at me and asked me where I was from. For one cool moment, I froze. Where was I from? I mean, obviously, I’m an American. But I don’t currently live there. Husband came to the rescue and said that we had come from Germany. I recovered and mentioned that I was originally from California, hence the butchered French and non-German. After we walked away with the gelato in hand, it really got me thinking of how such a simple question has become so complex for us.
The longest that Boy Child and Girl Child have lived in one location was four years. Four years. That’s it. They are from nowhere and everywhere all at the same time. Do they claim “home” as where they were born? Where they lived the longest? Where they currently live? Or is it where they came from? Or do you just say you’re from wherever you felt the most at “home”? They’ve asked me and I’ve told them that home is where they feel comforted. If they felt like Hawaii was home, then it’s Hawaii. If they felt that Kansas was home, then Kansas. It’s like a complex game of chess where there is a stalemate and no one wins. Boy Child has caught on though. When someone asks where he’s from, he mentions where he came in from. He’s a smart, not-so-little dude.
So if you ever ask someone where they’re from, if they hesitate for a moment, it’s not usually because they don’t know…they’re just might be trying to work it out in their heads a little. Such a seemingly simple question can actually be a pretty complicated one.