The instinct to return to one's ancestral home seems to be quite strong in many different creatures, but I wonder if any of those birds or butterflies or sea creatures would rather not return home but somehow feel that they should.
Yes, it's that time of year again, almost. Time to trek back to the old homestead and visit relatives and feel like an eccentric loser.
Why do I do it? Why do I go back if I dread it each year before I go and don't enjoy it much while I'm there? Well, of course it's because I love (some of) my relatives, I want my daughter to know and love this part of her family, and I want her to have some connection with that place, which is beautiful.
I think I would like my visits 'home' a lot more if I only saw my mother and my aunts and we could just hang out together chatting and walking and laughing together. But that's not what happens.
Here's what it will be like:
My uncles will sit on the deck drinking and talking about sports, war, and religion (occasionally telling crude jokes when they think no one is listening) and the women will cook for them and bring them beverages and snacks.
One of my uncles will ask me if I'm still wasting taxpayer money on my "research" that is on topics so obscure no one could possibly care about such things. Everyone will laugh.
Discussion of my career will remind another uncle to tell me about his son who spent his teens and twenties drunk and/or stoned but who now devotes himself to bringing Bibles to desperately poor people in other countries. He will say "Now that's important work."
My step-father will ask me if I've "written anything" lately, but he doesn't really want to know if I've written anything lately. There is no point in mentioning my scientific articles or books and I am definitely not going to mention that I have been writing occasional columns for The Chronicle of Higher Education because my step-father's question is just his way of introducing the topic of his son who writes for The New York Times.
And we will spend vast amounts of time talking about my brother, the high-ranking military officer, of whom I am very fond and proud even though he outranks me in the family because he is (1) male and therefore intrinsically more special, and (2) in the military. The military is #1 in my family; religion is #2; and some male relatives have even reached a pinnacle of awesomeness by becoming ministers after retiring as high-ranking officers in the military.
Being a Female Science Professor in my family is considered weird and somewhat pathetic. At least I'm good at it. That's something..
At 'home', I go into a kind of Zen-coma in which I let it all wash over me as much as possible. I breathe slowly and evenly, I don't talk much, I go with the flow, I read, I do some manuscript and proposal reviews (though I read them over before I send them in case my feeling of oppression inadvertently seeps into my reviews), I help out in the kitchen, and I count the days.
I have also developed the strategy of taking a vacation in the middle of the vacation. After a dose of relatives, my daughter and I spend a few days together in a favorite place where I spent a lot of time as a child. It is just far enough from Relative Central that we stay in a motel, but not so far that they can't visit us for an afternoon or for dinner. I bookend the stressful parts of the visit on either end of that part of the trip, thereby saving at least a portion of my sanity.
I will not blog during my family trip but I will post something quick tomorrow (with a poll!), and then I will be back next week, just in time to obsess about the looming fall term.
9 months ago