Motley Microfiction: Alien

Earth called and my dad answered, enlisting himself and my family to search for life in the stars. I was an infant when we boarded the Perseus. I cut my teeth orbiting Saturn. By the time we reached Vega, I’d enlisted too.

I was among the first to contact the aliens of Vega: translator, diplomat, friend.

But retirement comes early for the military woman, and over my protests they shipped me back to the distant planet of my birth. They call it home, but even the stars are strange to me here.

I’m homesick for space. I’m the alien now.


English: Gorgazzo's spring - Polcenigo
The spring of Gorgazzo in Polcenigo, Italy. I spent a large chunk of my childhood just miles away. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you define “home”?

When people ask me where I’m from, I’m never sure how to answer. Do they mean where I was born? Do they mean my nationality? Or do they mean where I’ve lived the longest, or perhaps the place I liked the most? For me, these are all different places.

You see, I’ve moved around quite a bit in my short life, on average every 3 years or so. I grew up a Military Brat. My family followed my father’s assignments, which means that although I’m American, I was born in Germany. I’ve lived on both coasts of the US, as well as the northern and southern ends at various times. For a large chunk of my childhood, I lived in Italy. Eventually I wound up in Georgia, fell in love with a local boy, and have been here ever since, although we’ve lived in several cities around the state.

Italiano: Aviano
The Italian Alps as seen from Aviano, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have mixed feelings about all the globetrotting. On the positive side, it’s given me some great stories and a sense of adventure toward travel. I’ve also learned what it means to live in a world full of many countries, customs, and languages. No matter where you’re from, there’s probably a lot that you take for granted about what’s standard or appropriate. This could be what you eat, what you wear, how you speak, and what you expect from others. When you begin to travel or to talk with people who live very different lifestyles, you become aware of how small your experience is, in the grand scheme of humanity.

We are all like fish who don’t know we’re wet until the day we’re flopping around outside the water.

Actually, the Packway Handle Band. Wonderful B...
Musicians performing in downtown Athens, GA — my current home. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The downside of moving so much is that I’m left without a sense of belonging. Like the woman in today’s story, even when I return to what we must call my “home”, I feel like a visitor. People often describe “home” as a place where you’ve been, or as a place where you are right now. I’ve come to think of “home” as a destination. Someday, I tell myself, I’ll arrive somewhere and know I’m finally home.

I hope that day comes.

By way of contrast, my husband lived in the same house his entire life. That boggles my mind! What must it be like, I wonder, to have that sort of attachment to a single place? Is it worth the tradeoffs? I guess we have no way of knowing; you only get one childhood, so the best we can do is swap stories.

So tell me about yourself. Did you live in one place your whole life, or did you move around? What do you think are the upsides and downsides to the way you grew up?

16 thoughts on “Motley Microfiction: Alien

  1. Maybe home is where family and friends are, rather than a particular geographical location

    1. Good point. “Home is where the heart is”, perhaps? That’s the closest I can get to feeling at home. My friends and family are scattered across the globe, so maybe that just means home’s in a lot of places for me. 🙂

  2. Great minds think alike.

    I have been thinking a lot of reflecting on a response about how I view what “home” is. I took this class in college called 20th century British Fiction. A major theme that our professor wanted us to focus on was about “home.” What is home to the characters in the all the novels she had us read basically. This has always stuck with me. I think that home, as well, is about destination…more than space…I also think home is a virtual space in your head…it is with the people who love and appreciate you…where you can feel like you are being your best self because those very people accept you. Yet, of course, I am just telling you one of my thoughts about what I think home is from my perspective.

    1. What deep thoughts. The idea of home being a place in your head makes so much sense to me. I think about being at a restaurant with very close friends. Maybe we’ve never been to that place before, but somehow I feel completely comfortable and belonging anyway.

  3. We used to move a lot too…we never stayed in one place for more than five years, even though my father is a professor, which is supposed to be a sedentary job.

    I think what irked me the most was leaving my friends and then having to go and start all over again…as a result, I became the perpetual misfit. And to this day I find it difficult to stay in touch with long distance friends…if I leave a city, its like it fades from my mind completely…I don’t like to reminisce about things much. Maybe that was just a coping mechanism I developed in the days when long distance phone calls, letters and later email were the only way to keep in touch.

    1. I really identify with what you’ve written. I’ve heard that for 3rd Culture Kids (anyone who moved around a lot as a child, especially changing countries), research shows that we’re better at making friends quickly, but we struggle to maintain really longterm relationships because we have a sense of impermanence toward life. We love our friends, but there’s always that feeling that we’re just going to have to leave, so love hard but don’t expect anything to last forever. Something like that.

      I remember all that letter-writing and long-distance phone calls. It’s hard when you’re a kid because unlike adults, you probably can’t afford to stay in touch unless your parents pay for those phone calls, etc. So friendships fade. I wonder what it’s like nowadays with the internet. Do kids who grew up like we do stay in touch better?

      By the way, I HATED moving too. I would always cry, both before and after! And I hated having to be “the new kid” over and over again. Now that I’m older, I don’t mind so much, but oh those memories are vivid.

      1. Exactly! I used to cry a lot before and after too!

        And I love my friends a lot, but I never expect it to last. Its like I have this ingrained pessimism regarding friendships. Wow.

      2. I guess we could get really philosophical and say that in the end, everyone dies, so it’s true that no friendship lasts forever. That’s probably even MORE depressing though…

        Okay, let’s try this again: I like to think that we appreciate what we have right now more, knowing that sometimes things don’t last. Love hard treasure each day. 🙂

  4. You seem like a fascinating person, darling — I’ve met Army brats before, and some were more well-adjusted than others. It definitely gives you less of a stagnant nationality and more of an appreciation for other cultures, other countries, other viewpoints (if you’re well adjusted — I regret to say that I have found others, well, pigheaded and obnoxiously patriotic and nationalistic to the point of self-parody).
    Very nice to meet you!

    1. Oh, I couldn’t agree more! I find that grownup military brats go one of two directions. Some completely drink the authoritarian Kool-Aid and turn into those stuck-up blowhards who really think that “might makes right”. And some of us turn into hippy-dippy multiculture-loving pacifists who just want to run around giving everyone hugs! 🙂

      Incidentally, I get called Canadian a lot, and I can’t imagine a better compliment! 😀

      Absolutely delighted to meet you too. E-hug!

      1. Right back at you, darling! You’re one of the people I had in mind when I drafted my shameless advertisement. When some people follow you, you know they’re never going to read a single word you write, but with you and a couple others, I got the impression that you might just love what you’ll find in the Memoirs, and I’m always on the look out for new readers and new friends. It’s been my experience on here that it’s not the quantity of “readers” but the quality, and it’s about developing relationships. I’ve kind of gotten a reputation around as someone who is a big promoter of others’ writing. It’s my philosophy that if you want someone to read your work, you have to return the favour. But I’m rambling now, darling. I look forward to seeing your posts pop up on my reader!

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