Visits to homeland help balance life

Monday, August 25, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:32 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

Two or three times each summer, I visit the place where I was born. All that’s left there for me to feel a connection to is the land. The old house has been replaced with a new house. My father and grandfather built our house, a simple two-story frame dwelling that faced the street. That house burned many years ago. Our old house was surrounded with fruit trees — two apricot, a pear and a cherry. The new house is built of logs and sits in the corner of the lot. What trees there are are mere saplings.

I’m not really sure why I keep visiting this place because it’s always a traumatic experience and a high emotional price to pay to keep in touch with my memories. I tell myself that I do this because it helps me maintain my equilibrium at this time when things seem especially crazy. I find myself thinking too often that, figuratively speaking, California is where the whole country is heading and fantasy land will be our final destination. I tend to think of California not as a place but as a state of mind. I figure that one bad idea will lead to another and that any moment, anybody will be in charge of everything and nothing will work and that the most widespread blackout in the nation’s history was only the beginning.

I believe that I am truly out of step with my times. While everyone around me seems to feel that now that power has been restored in the Northeast, everything will be fine, I don’t know how they can be so sure about that. Until something is done to prevent it from happening again, how do people know that it won’t happen again next week? We’re indeed fortunate that there were no fatalities, but the blood supply was seriously affected, which caused serious medical problems in some areas. How many other things were thrown out of whack that all of us are not even aware of?

I think I’m the only person that thinks we will never get out of Iraq. I truly wish the people who thought the war was the right thing to do will explain exactly when and how this present catastrophe will end. And could somebody name two things that are being done by the federal government to end the recession?

That’s just the short-list. But that’s all it takes to bring me to the realization as to why I keep trying to go back home. I have had a life-long struggle with trying to figure out why I see things so differently from so many of my associates. Certainly, a lot of it has to do with race and culture and the necessity to survive in a segregated America. But a greater part, I think, has to do with upbringing. I know the fact that I was born into a matriarchal family reflects in my attitude about and toward women, for instance.

I automatically look to women for leadership, and when I see women defer to men in this role, it makes me uncomfortable. In early adulthood, I worked for a government agency in an office that was headed by a woman. Whenever she held department meetings, she always entered the room trailed by two secretarial-type men. Since this struck me as the way things should be, I was always stunned by the character slurs this woman evoked from the other female employees.

I’ve never believed that children and adults should be equals in decision making, and this has caused me a lot of grief. I’ve always felt that one of the reasons that I enjoyed childhood so much was because I was not expected to make decisions on matters in which I had no prior information or experience. My childhood friends who assisted their parents in this way often found themselves involved in circumstances beyond their control. I had to sit at the lowly children’s table for meals at my grandmother’s house, but I never had to worry about being adrift in the world without the benefit of parental guidance.

I was brought up to believe that it was immoral and unwise to support people who tell lies, whether they are doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs or people who have enough money and influence to take over the world. This always gets me into trouble with the “my country right or wrong” crowd. I believe that under the right circumstances, a person who has no qualms about lying will also steal and even kill to carry out his agenda. Furthermore, no one of merit would expect his friends or colleagues to support his lies because it illustrates that he has no respect for the integrity of his cohorts.

Anyway, whether I figure this thing out or not, I’ll probably visit the homeplace at least once more before the snow begins to fall. At least I don’t feel alone there. A few blocks away, three generations of my family are laid at rest. Even when you hear a different drummer, I suspect that in the end, belonging somewhere with someone is what matters after all.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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