The list grows of all the places that are supposedly offering ‘refuge’ after this election.
But there is this old saying…
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
And this is a girl that spent thirty years looking for those greener pastures. I grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Drayton actually. A tiny mill village with an ageing population. As long as I can remember I dreamed of getting out of there.
I was actually fifteen when this country song ignited my imagination…
But of course I focused on the ‘happiness is Drayton, SC in my rear view mirror.’ Nothing would stop me from getting out of there. I was just too liberal, too feminist, too right, too big to spend my life stuck there.
I was eighteen when I first ‘escaped’ to college. But Columbia, SC was not far enough away for this girl. After a few months, the dutiful daughter came back to help with an ailing parent. But those dreams would not go away. Within a year, I was off again…to Cancun, Mexico. Was that far enough? No, again I was back but this time in Gaffney. But the next time I escaped was to be the final one.
I took a job as a nanny with a young couple that travelled the country selling magazine subscriptions. I made it as far as Fort Lauderdale, Florida…and the Candy Store bar where I used ‘my talents’ in the wet t-shirt contest to supplement my earnings as a waitress…and I got lost in…sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.
Over the next decade that wildness was to be buried deep in the facade of mother and preacher’s wife. I was to go back to college and earn not just a BS but a Masters. But under it all, those itchy feet still yearned for…
This one…is so painfully accurate…that it brings tears to my eyes.
Of course, mine was not the exceptional marriage in that video. I was competing with a mistress that was impossible to beat…god. So I was off again…look for those greener pastures. And there was one place that called me like no other…
Los Angeles, California – summer of 2000
It was a new millennium…the world had not come to an end as predicted. And with stars in my eyes, I set out in my old Dodge Neon with the ink still wet on my divorce papers. After all since I was a teen watching Corben Bernsen in LA Law, this was UTOPIA. The perfect place…where anyone could be anything they wanted.
And I was too. I had lost over fifty pounds and got a job as a personal trainer. I got my own apartment…the first one in fifteen years. I got another job as a fundraiser and I hob-nobbed with politicians and stars. I managed multi-million dollar accounts and dressed in red power suits. But I still was not happy.
You see Los Angeles was NOT that utopia I had dreamt of. I learned that when I was dating a black man. We had gone out for coffee but the Latino man sitting two tables away from us would not stop staring. I felt like I was back in Spartanburg…I would expect racism there…but not LA?
But I was to learn even in Utopia there were neighborhoods that this black millionaire business man that looked like a football lineman would not dare drive through because he was certain to be stopped by the police…even though he held contracts to supply tires for the cars they drove.
Then I met PanKwake’s dad.
London, England – 2006
I will never forget my first visit to the north London neighborhood that was to be my home for more than a decade. We could hold hands…even kiss in public. And no one cared about a white woman with a black man. In fact, light brown skinned children were more common than either their darker or lighter skinned counterparts.
This then must be my utopia!
I had lived there less than a year. I was training to be a breastfeeding counsellor. And the class I was taking was all that young girl with stars in her eyes and unrealistic dreams ever dreamed of. There were three upper middle class white women, an Afro-Caribbean (that was a new word for me…and a new concept too), a Muslim and three other white women like me with mixed race children.
Then after class one Friday, I decided that PanKwake and I would try the cafe in that community center. Those three middle class moms were sitting with their children about a large table. I smiled and asked if we could join them.
Despite the obvious visual contradiction, the response was ‘Sorry, there’s no room.’
Even in this city half a world away with its thousand plus year history of trade and colonization, racism was alive and well.
I noticed another of the mothers with her mixed race little girl eating alone. And my heart sank. I was never again to feel the same about this place either. In fact, I was to come to hate the place where I felt trapped, where a little five year old girl was called ‘an infidel’ on the school playground by an adult nonetheless.
Present Day – Swansea, Wales
Yes, I love this smaller city. I love the Welsh pride and spirit that so closely resembles that ‘Southern hospitality’ that I had come to yearn for as much as I had once resented the ‘small minds’ that was the other side of that coin. I even laughing joke about home cookin’ from Sandy’s where even the vegetables are slathered in gravy. The only difference is the accent it seems.
But time has taught me a valuable to lesson…
The grass is NOT greener. No place is perfect.
For one simple reason, no person is perfect.
I had one of THOSE conversations with PanKwake, my autistic 10 year old daughter, at some point in the seemingly endless night. I think it was around three or maybe five in the morning as we discussed her Aphmau’s latest roleplay and the villain Zane. Surprisingly, I think she understood the concept that no one is completely evil and no one is perfect (yeah, I know Cookie Monster seems that way to me sometimes)…far better than I did. Perhaps better than I still do.
I know that things may seem dark where you are. But the bigger truth is that darkness exists everywhere…in every time…and every person.
I am reminded of one of those preachers back in those dark days of Bedias, Texas (that was is a blog all in itself, folks) when he said…
Grow where you are planted.
But the greatest truth of all is…
Home is not a place. It is the people…those we love.
It is not Swansea that makes me happy. It is PanKwake and Cookie Monster and my other children spread around the globe. It is family…and friends…be they next door or words on a screen thousands of miles from here.
And it is growth in myself that allows me to realize the beauty of the past, the happiness in this moment…and hope against all odds for a brighter future for us all.
Goddess bless, comfort and protect us all no matter where we call home.