Sunday, September 14, 2008

Here is an In Between Place

I am here. For a daughter of a Greek immigrant mother, who grew up in a postcolonial island country off the southern coast of North America, who has, for the last three years, lived her day to day life on the west coast of that enormous land mass, being 'here' is not simple.

Being 'here' is always an in between place, a place that is hardly ever static, that is pulled between impulses: to go 'home', or to look for someplace else to grow; to go home and help build a 35 year old country, or stray, go out into the world looking for something far more individual, the desire for self fulfillment that is often sacrificed in the building of nations - and how complicated that desire is, when it is articulated, (even its articulation is complicated, heretical), since it is not part of mainstream cultural desires (at least, not visibly); it is womanish and queer, so that to be 'here' out here, is really an exile, and to go home is to take myself back to the older, former exile - to live at home where homosexuality, bisexuality are not only deviant, they are anti-Christian in a country that calls itself a Christian Nation, that speaks to this in its constitution, claiming adherence to Christian spiritual values.

I called my grandmother today, because it is Sunday, and no matter where I am in the world, Sunday is lunch after church at Yaya's, and the family sitting around a table and the newest member of the family being passed from hands to hands, the eldest looking on and smiling, though somewhat sadly, and talk of business and perhaps some sweet piece of gossip, and joking, and laughing, and today, I called Yaya, because it is not good for a Greek Bahamian woman to go too long without speaking to her Yaya, and I had to keep the tears from filling my throat and blocking the words, and Yaya said, "When are you coming home?" And I thought in that moment of all the lunches and dinners around the family table where I have sat mute, or spoken words to avoid speaking words. Where children and weddings were discussed, but my own life was carefully edited and censored before it could make it into sound much less the family discussion. I thought about how well I learned to mask my yearning, to call it something else, to speak the words that were good and acceptable so I would not be seen. How I learned to play necessary roles and pretended to want what my characters wanted, till I did not know what it was that I wanted, my own self. How I had learned to disguise my multicoloured wings, till they were of no use to me there. How I was out here learning to fly. I said, "Soon, Yaya, soon." She said, "For good?" I said, "I don't know Yaya, maybe."

And that is how it goes, out here, with the birds (Cixous), because once you start articulating who you are, you can't go back to pretending you are not the person you have been dying all your life to become.

And if I were to imagine it otherwise, I would have a different conversation with my Yaya. We would talk and towards the end of the conversation, she would say, "So, have you found someone to make you happy?" I would say, "Not yet." She would say, "Come home, maybe you will find her here." My heart would start and stumble, and I would try hard to keep the tears from filling my throat and blocking the words. I would say, "You think so?" She would say, "This is your home, isn't it?" I'd say, "Yes, it is." She would say, "If you can't be yourself here, where can you be?" Then, like some incarnation of an ancient Cretan priestess, her voice deep and oceanic, she would say, "Lena mou, come home..." and the word 'home' would bring me there.

'Here' is not an easy place. It is fragmented. It stops and starts. Codes change. What it means to be a woman loving woman in this place is not the same as it is in the place I come from. What it means to be a white woman in the place I call home is very different from whiteness in America. 'Here' is pieces and stitching them together the way I watched my Yaya do with needles and coloured thread, with needles and coloured yarn, with her working hands and a desire to create 'family' out of every and any thing she could find, far from the island she grew up on, in another sea, another time; both of us Helens, making home no matter what.

2 comments:

Candice said...

Helen,
You are an amazing writer, and an amazing woman.
xo

Helen Klonaris said...

Candice, thank you so much for your comments! I am deeply grateful!