My Father and I never talked about him dying when he was diagnosed with cancer. We just avoided the conversation. In many ways, I felt, he knew he was going to die, and he was at peace with it.
I remember vividly, one conversation we had, when I was about 15. We were spending 2 weeks together, alone, my Mother was visiting her sister, and my Dad and I were holding down the fort together. We were eating ice cream, and he began talking about life. He grew up with nothing, My grandmother was a Red Cross ambulance driver during WW2, and my Grandfather was a fighter pilot. He had grown up with 3 toys, and those 3 toys fit into a ziplock bag in his dresser. Where ever my Grandfather was posted, the family dutifully followed. His desire to see and experience the world was so innate, so deep seeded, that he got depressed when he couldn’t see more of it. The strange thing was, his major desire was to put down roots, and own a home. It was a push and pull between worlds, I was too young to comprehend. How could you want to see the world, but have roots too? Why did owning a house, define what kind of roots one had? My parents did own homes, over their 30 years, they owned 3, just not at the same time. My Father spent hours, planting gardens, and watching his garden blossom, he loved taking our dog out for long walks, and sneaking chocolate bars every once in a while. There was a sense of normalcy to this world, but he never fit in. He was born abroad, and he never lived in one place longer than 3 years at a time. As a child, he never saw the same house twice.
Which I think, made him want to own a house. He wanted my Mother to make it pretty, and he wanted to be able to say, he owned a house. His titles, his experiences were his own, but being able to own his own house was extremely important to him.
I have never owned a house. Nor do I want to at this stage. When friends ask us when we will get into the real estate game, I laugh it off. Here is the thing, you don’t actually own it until it is completely paid off, so one should look at it as forced savings, not an investment. I want more experiences in life. If I own a house, I will have to choose redoing a roof, over heading to Asia. I am not ready to make those choices. Don’t get me wrong, I love design, but right now, headspace is taken up with other things, not decorating or renovating a house. No matter how much I have traveled and seen, I still feel like I haven’t done, seen, or learned enough. Owning a house hasn’t defined how one makes roots. I volunteer, am involved with the community, and sit on a couple of boards. I haven’t made that leap into buying, simply because I don’t have the time or the patience.
When I told a former colleague of mine how I felt, he actually laughed and told me “completely normal, you went the opposite from your Father. He thought having roots included owning a house, and you think of roots as a metaphor, you want to own less and see more.”
How do you feel? What is your definition of roots?