In the days leading up to my recent trip to Puebla, Mexico, I asked myself that question many times. It had been 25 years since I left the city where I grew up and I had not been back since.
I don’t think a day had gone by when I hadn’t at least thought about Puebla in passing. That place was simply a part of me. And I missed it.
So, it was with more than a little excitement and a measure of trepidation that I began my trip back “home” to a country to which I didn’t belong and a language with which I was no longer very familiar.
And I wondered. Would it be like I remembered? Would going back just make me miss it even more when I left again? Would it feel like home? Or would I truly be a foreigner that didn’t really belong?
As my plane flew closer and closer to my destination, I could feel my heart beating faster and faster, my anticipation growing exponentially with each mile that literally flew by. I looked eagerly for the mountain peaks that would signal my arrival, but the heavy cloud cover kept me guessing as to where I was.
But as we came through the clouds, I saw the landscape which I knew so well from my childhood and the question that had been nagging me for months was instantly answered – you CAN go home again.
I freely admit that the tears began to flow and before I knew it I was sitting there weeping on a plane. The poor man across the aisle from me was very concerned for my well being. But the truth was, in a very unexpected way, I was well and I felt whole again.
I think it is completely appropriate that we use the metaphor of roots when we speak of belonging, history, family, and home. I don’t know why, but I believe (and feel my recent experience helps to prove) that as people we connect quite literally to the ground beneath us. That our environment, the landscapes, the plant life, the sounds, the sights, the architecture, the asphalt, the very earth itself, is ingrained in our souls – it becomes a part of the essence of who we are.
And every time we move, a little piece of us gets left behind in the soil and a little bit of that soil gets taken with us. And we are forever changed.
I really don’t mean to get too philosophical on the subject, and I can feel eyes beginning to roll. But my recent trip home healed me profoundly in places that I didn’t even realize were broken. And it was the place that did it.
By that, I mean that I have no family left in Puebla and there were only a few people that I saw while I was there that I knew when I was growing up. So, it wasn’t “home” in the sense of a community that I needed to visit, it was “home” in the sense of place. (Not that I didn’t love every moment I spent with those people!!!)
My soul had yearned to see “my” mountains, to walk the streets surrounded by colonial architecture, to be enveloped by the vibrancy of life there, the people, the culture. To experience the sights and sounds and smells of the place where I spent my formative years.
During the months that have passed since I made my brief trip to Puebla, it has become evident that I needed the closure that it brought. Prior to going back “home”, not a day went by that I didn’t think of Puebla at least in passing… and it always brought a bit of a pang.
But by going home again, that little wound that I had carried with me for 25 years was stitched up and allowed to heal. I realized a few days ago, that I think of Puebla slightly less often, and when I do, it is without the pangs!
I do believe that my roots have finally caught up with me and found me here in South Georgia.