Saturday, March 26, 2011

Word of the Month: "Cleave"

Crossed-Flag-Pins India Canada

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

1 to chop or break apart; to split       
2 to stick fast; to adhere

And on this bleak Friday evening in Three Hills, this is how I feel. I feel numb, not myself. I feel like I've been split wide apart again; yet I feel completely contained, tightly restrained.

I walk into Nilgiris on Thursday night with the oddest sensation that I am slightly outside of my body, that I am seeing the TH for the first time.

I carefully examine the pictures on the piano, reacquainting myself with my grandparents; my Dad holding the baby that was I; two little sisters in a grainy black and white; my nephews; my siblings; my friend Bernadette and I, golden from the sun and the happiness of her wedding day; Brent and Curt; Virgil; George; Maynard. The scribble on the back of the envelope that represents the last song Mum taught me is also there, floating in a broken glass frame. I look curiously at the familiar black and white keys, wondering if I can remember any songs. I don't sit down to try them out. I'm not in need of comfort on this odd evening; I'm more in need of recognition, of familiarity, of a touchstone.

I see a sign from Don and Norma:

For Your Homecoming.
Left in Winter          Back in Spring

But how I feel is exactly the reverse: I have just left an incredibly hot spring and now I'm plunged back into an unexpected winter: snow is actually falling as I look outside. I feel like I'm inside a snow globe, like everything is surreal and I might be flipped over and shaken until the tiny particles float, sparkling in a make-believe world, all around me again.

How can I be pulled so insistently in two different directions and still be whole? Does one have to cleave from something in order to cleave to something else?

Is there any happy medium?

I think of my ethereal friend Meaghan, whom I met this visit to India after a time passage of about 35 years. Her exquisite appearance and delicate demeanour belie a strength of character and a willingness to adapt, to do whatever it takes in order to protect and serve her children's best interests.

I think of my adopted niece, Chloe, starting to feel the pull, starting to know that there are going to be hard choices in the not-too-distant future.

I think of Dad, who is more at home in India than in Canada in many ways, but who is at complete peace with where God would have him to be at any given moment. Dad, who says when arriving both in Bangalore on March 3 and Three Hills on March 23, "It's good to be home, isn't it?"

I wonder afresh what these dual yearnings in my heart will lead to. I wonder if I will always feel incomplete in some sense wherever I go, always intuit subconsciously that something significant is missing from the fabric of my being, always seek to reconcile the elusive elements of what it is to be a Third Culture Kid.

And at the same time I am so thankful that I have the privilege of belonging in some small way to both of these great countries.

How can one word have such diametrically opposed meanings and yet make so much sense?

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Flag India animated gif 240x180
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  1. I can totally relate. We got back from our trip to Georgia on Thursday and although it's good to be back in our own house, I think we're all feeling a bit mixed up. Wanting to be with family and at home at the same time. The weather difference being so different. We've heard that our snow may be here til May. I'm praying that things will start warming up this week and that we can have our spring start sometime in April. SO thankful that the Lord allowed us to take the trip and now SO thankful to be back home safely.

  2. You articulate so well what so many of us feel. Whether one is a TCK or not, the need for belonging makes every being hone for Home. Thank you for sharing your experience of it. It awakens our own.

    [ curious: could the origin of Cleave
    be a combination of Come / Leave ? ]

    Where the Lion within
    can lie down
    with the Lamb within
    and be at Peace
    Or Without


    Ch-Leo :)

    You Are Home

    Home Is You

    Welcome here!

    We love knowing that no matter where you are, you are with us.
    We are so glad you are here.

    Welcome home!

    C-Leo-ryn :)

  3. I would question your contention regarding dual nationality -- when did you ever do anything in a small way!


  4. Cath, I especially liked the line in your comment, "Welcome Here." Some years ago I was going for a stay at Bronwyn's place, and Elliot had put a sign up on the dooor saying "Welcome Here." A day or so later I asked him what it meant. He replied that of course, their home wasn't my home, so he couldn't write "Welcome Home". But he still wanted me to feel welcome there with them. Maybe that sums it up entirely: we don't necessarily belong, but we are welcome wherever we are ...


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