The late afternoon sky is almost pink; the moist air around the Florida intercoastal waterways makes me lazy as we glide down the canals. My two princesses sit on the bow as we find an opening in the water that’s ideal to hang out for a few hours. I consider anchoring here and maybe enjoying a chilled beer or some cashews, or in the case of my four year old, some salty Goldfish.
I hesitate and keep on moving; feel like there is more to see, and experience, just around the corner.
There is a feeling for millions of us, who may have traveled far from the lands where we were born; we search for something more than what life had to offer where we grew up. Some find it instantaneously, by making close friends in their community; some go a lifetime, feeling alienated from their neighbors (or colleagues) and never really assimilating into local cultures or norms.
A close family friend lived in a little known, five-thousand inhabitant town in Nebraska where Italian food was considered diversity for many years; and then I have known families in middle sized cities like Toledo, Columbus, Lafayette or Pittsburgh that still don’t feel “at home” even after living there for decades.
Anchoring is not easy; it requires giving up something that you may hold core to you or to have to make a choice and give up the possibility something more.
Some of my friends live in a single home and have something (or someone) to anchor their lives to. Sometimes it’s a home, sometimes it’s an institution – be it a religious or a political belief. As we grow older, this craving for anchoring becomes stronger.
For most of my life, I have never had the opportunity to anchor to something concrete. During my childhood, as a child of a rising multi-national executive, we were moving to a new home every 2-3 years.
In some ways, my grandmother’s home in Aga Masih Lane in Purano Dhaka, was my anchor. There was a beautiful Peyara (guava) tree at the back of the house that bore some of the sweetest of this tropical fruit. I remember the small lawn at the front, where my grandmother hand planted flowers and painted the flower pots before every Eid. I fondly remember the craving to go the rooftop, in late afternoons, to watch the colorful kites flying in random fervor. Those noises and “fragrances” of Aga Masih Lane have become a part of my psyche.
At some point, this home was sold and I have never been back to see it. I am surprised when I arrive at some old European city and suddenly find familiarity with the old brick buildings or when I smell fresh baked bread on the street and am reminded of the smell of Bakorkhani in old Dhaka.
Since moving to the US, first came college and the changes in dormitories and apartments, in a series, like daytime TV, that you change the channel on quickly.
During our sixteen years of marriage, Wasima and I have picked up homes and settled down in seven different topographies and neighborhoods. At one stage, my older daughters friends’ used to think that we are in some witness protection program.
Today, I strive to create anchors for my children – somehow that they may remain grounded to something; maybe it’s a building, maybe a neighborhood which is bigger than individual people or buildings. Maybe it’s not a building – it’s not a concrete box or a wooden structure, that can be touched or felt – maybe it’s a core set of values that bind us together. Maybe it’s an afternoon in South Florida when the sky and the ocean both adorn the color of blue.
One day, when they look back nostalgically and remember how their Baba took them boating once in a while, the sky remained blue and ocean beckoned with a salty kiss. We may have never anchored to a land mass or remained attached to something “solid”; but we enjoyed the best that the world had to offer– clear air, water, sunshine and an abundance of love and freedom.
Maybe anchoring to memories of the sea is more meaningful than a rectangular box of concrete.