Why Returning to Our Roots is so Meaningful?
Why is it so meaningful to return to where your ancestors are from? To visit places you only know from stories & pics?
I’ve asked myself that every time I thought to travel to my grandpa’s hometown in Iran. Standing in front of the villa he used to own feels like I’m visiting an old friend; sitting in the ornate Viennese-style café he and my granny used to frequent makes my heart soar. In Niavaran, I am not only able to see & touch the past, I can be inside of it.
Nevertheless, why would I feel such emotion & travel to a place I myself never lived in? A place whose memory I only inherited? In May of this year I finally traveled to Tehran from Los Angeles.
When I set out to visit the sites of the family’s past, I was worried that the house might not be there anymore.
Thankfully, it was still there in blue-gray shingles tucked into the bend of a road. Presumably it has stood empty since after World War II, when our family, along w everyone else of German heritage, left Iran.
Taking Home a Piece of the past I fell in love w the intricate patterns of the slate shingles on the outside walls of the upper floors; now more of them were dangling. I even found two of them on the ground, entirely intact, and I took one home. I’m holding that shingle in my hand now.
I could just see my Great-Great-Grand father standing at this Railing. On the mill’s covered walkway, shards of glass and siding crunched under my feet. According to Opa, that's my gradpa, his father always wore a carnation in his lapel, an oddly dapper outfit for the owner of a vast land, but—“he loved flowers.” Opa’s mother was more practical: She was generally exasperated with Opa, who “had only books in his head” & loved to sit in one of the windows, munching butter sandwiches as he read.
The place’s main door creaked open when I pushed it & I poked around.The rooms stood silent & empty, draped in cobwebs, sunlight streaming through the broken windows. I was astounded by how moving it was to be walking through the same rooms my Opa had played in, to now be inside the very walls that contained his childhood stories. The image of all family life buzzing about! Buildings & places last longer than we do, & this decrepit house, this very spot on Earth contained my history & allowed me for a few moments, to touch the past. I didn’t trust the integrity of the stairs to visit the “big room” upstairs where Opa used to sleep, unperturbed by the mill’s erstwhile noises: the gong of the grandfather clock, the rush of the mill stream & the churn of it's wheel.
Outside again, I searched for the mill stone, stumbling through the thickets around the building until I teetered on the rim of an overgrown concrete grid. A jungle of shrubbery beckoned below. As I was contemplating whether I was really standing on the former mill contraption, I reached into my pants pocket for a tissue. With it, my car key slipped out & dropped into the porous ground below me.
“This didn’t just happen!” I said.
I groped among the weeds & peered into few holes. “It’s gone. I can’t see a thing.”“There should be an opening there to operate the wheel.”
“How extraordinary,” I thought “That this should happen here, in Opa’s place!”
I kept marveling at the fact that I had lost the key among the remnants of my family’s past. Driving away, it felt as if my anxiety over the key’s recovery had left a bit of my heart there.
It seems to me that returning to my roots filled a hole in my understanding of the past. My family’s house was the manifestation of a hole in my past, a property that was abandoned.
How symbolic then, that my car key should drop into a hole at that very site & very hole where the mill’s turbine used to churn to generate the family’s livelihood. I felt as if that key, flying by the layers of concrete fell from my sunny world to the dank cavern below, stitched together the decades of family history. Now I lived there a little, too. And what ties you more to a place than a story?@e_britannica