It isn’t the child of immigrants who feel the tug of their ancestors, the drag of the people who want you back, like the pull of the under current, the sneaky sub tide that beckons playfully, hiding its agenda. Its sole purpose is to yank you back to the dirt, the rock, the water, and air of your ancestors. Siren calls disguised as curiosity. And god, you want to go. No, it isn’t the child because the child is connected skin-to-skin, heartbeat-to-heartbeat as he sits in his immigrant mother’s lap, cheek against her belly, ear against her lungs. He hears the echo of the place she left behind, beating rhythmically, her heart in his head. In her breath, he feels his life and mistakes it for her homeland. But it is a replica, a souvenir resembling the real thing, like a miniature Leaning Tower of Pisa, made of bronze with a built-in pencil sharpener. The child doesn’t know the difference between the motherland and the images his parents conjure with their garden brimming with tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and basil, with their basement kitchen where mamma creates heirloom pasta, pizza and bread, with the stories of poverty and war in her native dialect that she hopes never to forget and her accented English that’s just for show like the plastic covered sofa in the front room. No, it isn’t the child of the immigrant who hears the ancestors cry. It is the grandchild who suffers their emptiness, who clearly sees the surrogate for the motherland now gone. The concrete link vanished. It is the grandchild who hears their grief inside the beat of her own heart.
Do you ever long for your ancestral home? How does that longing manifest?