so, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here
never enough for both
-Ijeoma Umebinyuo “Diaspora Blues”
I am restless in a number of ways. Two of them: I can never sit still (something my cat hates) and I feel uneasy when I’ve lived too long in one place. This is a direct result of my childhood which was spent moving from rental home to rental home, never quite settling down. But it is also, perhaps, the result of generations of restless women who have dumped all their unfulfilled wanderlust onto my lap.
People sometimes brag about having lived their whole lives in one place.
“Yeh, Paradise mi born and grow. Everybody know me.”
Substitute Paradise for Roehampton, Cascade, Trench Town, etc. In response I’m completely baffled by the determined way they fit like fixtures into one neighbourhood, the way they know the history of every ackee tree and eye newcomers with the collective distrust of small towns. Don’t get me wrong – I love making roots and connections and settling myself (temporarily) into the unfamiliar ebb and flow of a new place. But once the current becomes too well-known I yearn for novelty again.
It’s not my fault, entirely. My mother, one of the urban drifters, left her born-and-grow home of Donalva in Hanover for the expanding city of Montego Bay. Once there she moved again and again searching for home, eventually settling for the closest approximation.
My grandmother, born in Hope Bay, Portland then raised on the hills of Fruitful Vale, followed her errant brother to the plains of May Pen and then again to the far flung, frigid shores of England during the great West Indian migration of the mid-1900’s. Dissatisfied and homesick she turned once more to Jamaica settling west in the parish of St. James, first in rural Roehampton then the coasts of Mobay.
My great-great-great-grandfather, a Scotsman and a traveler who wound up in Portland, Jamaica (the same Portland as my grandmother) centuries before.
I could go further back to the forced melanin migration of the Transatlantic Trade, hundreds of thousands of families uprooted and displaced. The result a fractured diaspora that alternates its longing for home with a hatred of the same (or at best a distant apathy).
All of which distill down to me, who moves around so much the thought of settling down kick-starts my anxiety. There’s so much to see, so many houses to be lived in, so many countries and towns and villages to discover, to be a part of. How can I choose one place to spend the rest of my life?
Maybe restlessness is the Afro-Caribbean ethos. Maybe I’m trying to outrun some deep emotional trauma. Maybe I’m trying to pin down that nebulous feeling of Home.Maybe I’m not old enough to settle down (maybe I never will be).
And hold me fast, hold me fast
Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
Mumford and Sons “Hopeless Wanderer”
But maybe one day this hopeful wanderer will hang her hat on some worthy homestead, and settle down to tell stories of a life well-traveled. For now, though, I’ll keep knocking about, readjusting and starting over. After all, it’s what I know best.