Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Going Home

So here I am, at another juncture in my life - closing out my Final Four job and getting ready to embark upon my new one.  That's for another blog.  However, in this transition period, I took a long-overdue trip back to the Bay Area in California to visit my grandmother, AKA "Grandma Chin", who has been ill this past year.  The last time I had seen her was over Chinese New Year in 2010, and since I was just getting off of the spinning planet that was the NCAA Final Four, I knew I had to plan another trip to see her.  And, here, at this fork in the road of my life, where I am closing one chapter and opening another, I have been blessed to get to taste again that feeling of going back to a familiar place, that place that evokes childhood memories and is a reminder of who you are and where you've come from.


It's an odd situation.  There isn't a "childhood home" that my parents live in and I go back to visit.  In fact, we moved houses so often that there is no such place for me and my sister.  The longest we lived in any house was 5 years.  I broke my "longest living in a house" record a couple of months ago when I hit the 6 year mark in the home I share with Dave and Nate, here on Bellefontaine.  So "going home" for me (if you are talking about a physical structure) is my grandmother's house on Grand Avenue in Oakland, California - a short walk from Lake Merrit and the Grand Theater.   It's a 2-story stucco duplex that is over 100 years old and my grandma reminded me the other day that she is only the 3rd owner of this home. 
I don't know how to describe it, but it has a certain smell about it.  A certain sound about it.  A certain feeling and sense about it that is familiar and comfortable.  Lots of memories here.  My sister and I used to play on the stairs non-stop when we were little during family gatherings.  And there's the little nook off the kitchen  where I would pad down the hallway to, early in the morning, and talk with my grandmother while she got food ready for the day and smoked a cigarette.  The Safeway Supermarket across the street has been there for ages and ages, and the traffic noise that comes through the front windows is sort of comforting in an odd way.  This is the house that my husband's family first met my family in, and the place where Nate came to meet the Chin side of his family - where he sat next to my grandfather's chair and rifled through the Chinese newspaper on the floor, pulling apart the different sections and staring at the strange characters on the pages, complete with pacifier in his mouth.

There are also strange memories that come with this place.  Tension between family members, some harsh words spoken, divorce, marriage, heartache, reconciliation... all the things that come with being a family.  If these walls could speak they would have many a good and beautiful and hard and sad stories to tell (as would all of our houses and homes).  And, standing here as an adult, I can appreciate ALL of those stories and the real life that has been lived here.  Most of all, for me, there is a sense of permanence in this place - a knowing that it will always be here - and that I can always come back to it.  And, it's a reminder of the fact that I want this for my own child -  a physical location that represents all of the wonderfully complicated things that make his family, his family.

3 Generations of Chin Women
And, as I walked through Oakland Chinatown with my Auntie Diane and Grandma Chin during my visit -making our way through old and young immigrants looking for their produce and a good lunch - I was reminded more of my cultural heritage.  I cannot describe for you the sights, sounds and feelings that come with a rememberance that this is where my life started (or close by), where I ate my first Char-su Bao, where the Chin clan made their way. 

Nate and Dave at our home's front door
  MY CURRENT HOME - The Home that Chin & Quan Built
Now, those of you who know me know that "home" is Houston, Texas where I have made my life and my living for the past 15 years.  And it will be the place where Nate will come back to and be reminded of his roots and the legacy built for him in the city he is growing up in.  It won't all be nostalgic - it wouldn't be real if it were - but it will ground him and give him a sense of belonging and a better understanding of who he is and what matters.  It is also where the Quan side of his roots grow deep - this family that has become mine over the past 18 years.  They have a story of their own in this city, and he is a part of that legacy!  I have been quite determined to raise him in one place, one house, one community for his growing up years because I think that grounding will give him the courage to go out and try new things, go new places and become who he is called to become.  So, I have worked hard with Dave at creating our own space and place and nest for our little bird to grow up in and then venture out from... returning here and there to be reminded of the love he comes from.


Emigrant Peak in Montana
And then there's the home I never knew before I stood in the Yellowstone River and looked around me.  That would be our favorite summer destination - the Paradise Valley of Montana.  It is the place we return to year after year after year for a long stretch every summer.  I had never lived there before visiting (although my parents did for a time) and I don't even live close to there now.  I cannot describe it any other way than to say, when I am there, I feel like it is a type of home for me - because I feel alive there - and free and unencumbered, amazed at the beauty that surrounds me and in awe of the world that I live in.  That's a different type of home for me, but when I get there and look around - there's a sense of feeling like I am where I should be.


And then I got to go "home" in the professional sense - on the same California trip that took me to Oakland.  I just hopped on a plane from the Bay Area and flew to Los Angeles to do a little event work.  I got to go work my final conference under the Mowalla umbrella for awhile.  And, it was nice to "be home" in that sense.  To work with someone I know well, to be able to fall in step with the gig and know exactly what needed to be done and then just do it.  To see things come together - to work on a topic that is near and dear to my heart and recognize that the work we do behind-the-scenes, well, it matters!  When we are a part of producing something that moves others to action, we are a part of changing the world. 

Enjoying doing what I love to do
I was teary-eyed all week working on this one because I knew it was goodbye in a sense.  I love doing events, and I will continue to do them in my new role as the Executive Director of the GRHA.  But sadly, it won't be with the event family I have literally "grown up" with.  I've learned a ton from them and am proud of all we have accomplished together.  Beyond that, there have been some wonderful stories that I have gotten to be a part of  - big and small - that have helped shape me into the person I am today - both professionally and spiritually.  I realized in the midst of this particular gig, that I was "home" in the work sense - doing what I love to do with people I love working with.  Home - for me - is about that place where you are most comfortable and feel the most like you can be who you are. 


There's the home I came from in the Bay Area, and the home that I have with my professional family, and the home I never really lived in but like to visit... and the home that I have worked on and established for my own family.  And I am really, really grateful that the word "Home" evokes good feelings for me because I recognize that for others, this word does not have anything good attached to it.  And, please hear me - I am not saying that "home" for me in any of these settings is idyllic.  There have been heartaches, fights, betrayal, sadness, in all of these places I claim.  And there has also been forgiveness, reconciliation, enormous love and some sweet days too.  That is what home entails.  The good and the bad.  But NEVER the perfect.

Except for the Home we all long for .  Do you ever wonder where we get this longing for a perfect home?  How is it that if none of us have ever experienced that type of perfection, we still somehow long for it?  I say it's because we know that type of Home exists elsewhere - and our hearts long for the whole and perfect creation that will someday be made possible.  That would be the REAL Home I speak of, I suppose.

In the meantime, I am glad to have tastes of that real home - here and there - in the day to day of my life.  This heart is grateful for all the places that feel like home to me in so many ways.

These are my rambling thoughts, a tiny bit of familial history written down for others to know, for Nate to someday read and reflect on.  In spite of what some may say, you really can go home again - if you want to.

Rachel for the Quan Clan

1 comment:

Chois said...

Amazing post, Rachel. What a thinker, theologian, and writer you are. Love you! When I am with your family, I know I am "home."