I have many homelands. Romania, spawned half of my ancestry and I’m just getting a first peek. It’s green and there are lots of white buildings with terracotta red roofs. The cows are light brown with white patches. The rural houses that I can see from the train often have little satellite dishes. Despite Transylvania’s reputation for being dark and edgy so far this all looks like well-planted farmland.
New York City is another of my homelands. It’s where my parents both grew up. They were the first generation of their families to grow up speaking English and to be unabashedly American. They grew up in immigrant communities, importing the cultures of the old country while incorporating America’s roaring 20s and then the Great Depression into their consciousnesses. They were adults during WWII and my mother volunteered to be a Wave in the Navy. In her own way she contributed to stopping Hitler’s rampage.
I was born in Palo Alto—a town my parents visited on a freewheeling cross country trip as footloose newlyweds. My Dad was offered a job in Redwood City through an old friend he knew in New York. Quickly they bought a home and soon after I was born. Palo Alto was sweet and safe relative to the worlds my parents were raised in New York City and my grandparents fled in Romania and Russia. The oppressions we felt in Palo Alto had to do with the plights of others. Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. The cold war made being half Russian confusing. I wanted to incorporate my Russianness into my being, but it was so inaccessible. Instead I embraced Mexican culture. I learned Spanish and as a 15 year old I spent the summer in Navolato, Sinaloa, Mexico as an exchange student. I became bilingual and bicultural.
Eventually I became an anthropologist. Along the way I went to UC Berkeley…living there in my early 20s, had a major impact on my consciousness. I embraced feminism and considered the gender revolution a huge breath of fresh air. In my mid-20s I spent 5 years living in New York City, a place I considered my cultural homeland. Suddenly I was amongst people who interrupted each other in mid-sentence (as I was taught to speak) who had brown curly hair and were a bit neurotic. I felt quite at home. Los Angeles has been my home for the last 25 years. Initially I was ambivalent, thinking I’d stay briefly and then live some place where I really fit in. Somehow it grew on me. Perhaps it was the time of my life to settle somewhere. Becoming part of vibrant artistic and intellectual community made a huge difference…and thus I stayed. I’m in Romania now. Perhaps this will take me full circle in making sense of who I am.