Roots: they are the stories that ground you, the food that returns you, the music that comforts you, and the people who know you. Everyone has roots that influence them, even if they don’t consciously know them or can’t access them.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013:
What does getting back to your roots look like to you?
Going back to my roots is a way to honor those who have come before me and basically made it possible for me to be who I am.
It looks like a pilgrimage sometimes, an arduous road with rocks that climbs to the unknown, made of strange emotions, a mix of sadness for what is not anymore and a pride that can overwhelm the sadness and make me feel so alive, so thankful, grateful and inspired.
I have experienced this three summers ago, when I had planned to visit my family back in France, and my brother invited the three of us for a week’s vacation in Normandy, with the goal of having the three cousins bond around their common roots, the American boys and the French one visiting the Normandy beaches of landing, and learn about their common history with the heroic and often tragic demise of the British and American troops who fought the German army on these beaches in 1944.
We had rented a cottage near Sainte-Mère-l’Eglise, and toured all the beaches each day, the museums and all the memorials that are on the roads at nearly each corner of the villages on the coast for miles and miles. History was alive under our feet. We went to the American cemetary in Colleville-sur-Mer and had the most moving experience, when my two boys, aged 13 and 15 silently stood, their baseball cup placed against their heart, in this so typically American posture of respect, that does not belong to the French culture at all, and I got the chills. With nearly 10,000 graves marked by white crosses, some of them adorned of a Star of David, the sight is chilling and solemn, the magnitude of the tragedy that unfolded is palpable. My son started to notice names of brothers, cut short in their lives in their twenties and our imagination could only venture at the surface of the pain that must have been endured.
Feeling how the sacrifice of those young men and women had allowed them to come to this world – had France not been liberated, it is very unlikely that their grand-father had met their grand-mother, given birth to their mother, and therefore they would not have existed… as simple as that.
Last summer, I took my youngest to the Memorial of the Shoah in Paris, and this time we said kaddish for my grandmother. We walked in the streets of Paris, in Le Marais, where I told him some of the stories of the area, that resonate so much for me. Less for him. It felt more like being a tourist in a city where the roots were not so obvious for him. Nevertheless, he chose to go on with going back to his roots and will travel to Europe and Israel this summer. I feel like I have passed the right heritage to him.
I may sometimes – pretty often in fact – feel like a fragile tree barren of its leaf in the wind, not knowing very well, if I will hold or fall and wondering if my limbs will weather the storms and the harsh winters, and then I remember that deep in the ground there are those multiple, often complicate roots, that hold steady and fast. I feel that if the ground is taken good care of, tended to properly, these roots will help my body and my entire being to strive, grow and multiply in a healthy way. It gives me strength and hope for the future. This is how getting back to my roots feels like to me.
See some of my other posts of the series: