Where Do I Belong?


In just four days I am headed to England, where my husband and I are renting a house in Salisbury for two months. I am anxious and full of anticipation. This is the longest I will have spent in my homeland in almost thirty years. What if I fall in love with England again? What if I don't? What if the sacred stones of Stonehenge, just a few miles from where we are staying, cast their spell on me? I left England in 1981 at age 25 for all kinds of reasons. I was an alcoholic running from the consequences of my behaviors, a wild spirit looking for ways to live more fully and freely, a young woman with a sense of adventure and a desire for new frontiers.

My first stop was New York City. On scant wages and with few options I lived in the South Street Seaport area, before it became chi-chi. Back then, it was a no-man's land after dark. I remember still, the sound of my heels resounding on cobblestones as I turned into dark alleys, making my way home.

A year and a half later, I would fly into in San Francisco to be seduced by the brilliance of the Bay, the full-sailed boats sweeping beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, the tawny hills of Marin. I felt as if I had finally landed.

Now, though, I feel torn about my roots, where I belong, where I want to grow old. Leaving England was one of the greatest gifts I gave myself, but also one of the great griefs. I still remember the look on my parents' faces when they attended my leaving party. Overnight, they had become old.

Today it's just my Mum. She's eighty-seven, and though vigorous for her age, her death no longer feels like a distant land. It will be reached sooner rather than later. Losing her, I will become the only survivor of my family of origin, and the umbilical cord that ties me to England will be loosed.

So my husband and I will move between London and Salisbury, spending a lot of time with my mother in both places, but also feeling into what it is to live, if only for a short while, in England.

Will I long to return to America after a few weeks? Will the English weather cause me to crave California's golden light?

Or will I feel my roots digging into the rich English soil, demanding of me answers to questions I can barely form?