Roots and Wings

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“How is it that someone who doesn’t cook opens a restaurant?”

“I had money. I wanted to run a business.”

“But a restaurant? What made you think you could do that?”  

“I thought it would be a good business. It was crazy. I should have taken more time to think about what I wanted to do before I jumped into anything.”

God, when hadn’t I said those exact words before? Except this time they were coming from my father. This conversation was a snippet of one of the many I’ve had with him over the last couple of weeks. I’ve always known the specifics of our history: how and when we immigrated to Canada, what my parents did to support us, and how they struggled with integrating into a new culture.

I’ve always been well aware of the facts, have recited dates and events many times over with a certain sense of pride (along the lines of a story of survival), but I don’t think I’ve ever understood how these realities shaped me.

Yes, I’ve always known that our move left a yearning in me. Most of the underlying themes of the stories I write have to do with loss, abandonment, finding one’s place. So on the surface I have thought and continue to ponder the impact of immigration.

But I’ve never dug deeper into understanding what it takes to leave behind your homeland, the people you love, everything, to start anew. What type of person moves to a country they know little about? What personality traits drive this kind of decision? Who were these people, the ones I call my parents?

In my discussions with my father, I’ve come to realise my parents were risk takers and dreamers who were prepared to work as hard as they had to in order to secure their dreams. They were doers, not thinkers. Gee, how many times have I described myself in the same way as I took on a new venture? How often have I said things such as: who has time to think?

Who else would start the kind of business that relies on cooking when he doesn’t know the first thing about cooking? My dad. Yes, he had my mom who was an exceptional cook, but she also had a big, soft heart. If someone couldn’t afford to pay for the meal, she’d provide it free of charge. Hm, as I write this paragraph, I see my parents more clearly. And I see myself.

Why hadn’t I realized this before?

I’ve missed my roots my whole life. But I’ve been looking outside of myself for the grounding I thought I’d missed. They were standing right there beside me all along. Mom and Dad.

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