Thursday, April 25, 2013


Today, some of my Facebook friends have posted about the football draft. I think it is happening -- now, or soon, or sometime. They root for teams I cannot name.

Some folks feel rooted in a place. Take New Orleanians, for example. I lived in their city for more than twenty years, but never felt rooted there. I disliked the climate, the topography, the heat and humidity, the lazy acceptance of poverty and crime. I loved the students, school, architecture, and bookstores, but only as someone passing through, on the wind and not in the ground.

When I first lived in New Orleans, Alex Hailey's Roots appeared on television, a transcendent experience in shared viewing and history. Suddenly, people understood that slaves were up-rooted and that African Americans like Hailey are rooted here, but with long feelers working their way back to ancestral homes. How could a slave ever have felt rooted? And isn't it a miracle that so many of their descendants do.

I have long roots in the "here" of the nation, extending all the way back into mid-16th-century Maryland, and the "here" of the Deep South, pushing back into early 18th-century Mississippi and Alabama. I even have roots in Tennessee, the "here" where I now live.

But am I rooted? I'm not sure. 

I feel rooted to Birmingham, where I was raised, but I've lived the vast majority of my life elsewhere. I suppose I feel rooted to my family, but it morphs, losing and adding people who don't have the long view or same history.

On the eve of my thirtieth birthday, my wise neighbor, a kind of surrogate mother, assured me that no longer being counted young ("Trust no one over 30") was a meaningless fear. She said, "I still feel like I'm 16," and she was in her 50s. 

Maybe that's what rootedness is: the sense of myself within myself that grows within and reaches without. Like this fruit of a tree, I'm still sending out feelers to ground myself.

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