Looking back and thinking forward

Month: April, 2013

Roots run deep (Update)

This winter, one of the potted plants that I have had for the past eight years could not take the cold out on the enclosed front porch. As the months passed by, I watched as its leaves turned from yellow to brown and sagged sadly downwards. This bright and sunny, brisk, spring morning as I busied myself with my Sunday watering plants ritual – you know, lighting candles, burning incense, and playing relaxing music (the type of music my son calls "alternative to music") – I decided it was time to pull up the plant and bury it in the yard outside. Kneeling down on the floor by the large, green, clay pot it has been housed in all these years, I dug my hands into the soil around it and started to tug at its roots. There was an intense network of them thick and large burrowed down deep into the soil. I tugged with all my might as bits and pieces came up in my hands. Once or twice I almost fell over as the roots seemed to stubbornly dig themselves in deeper the harder I pulled.

As I cleared the pot of all the lingering smaller roots closer to the surface, I realized that moving to a different country, town, or even a new home, feels a lot like the struggle I had with those plant roots. Indeed, it almost felt as if I was pulling the heart and soul of the plant out of its pot where it had resided all these past eight years or so. Each time I transplant a flowering plant or tree I watch as the flowers wilt and sometimes it takes days, even weeks for it to settle into its new pot or spot in the garden. It is a lot like that for me too. Each time I moved between continents or even between states, I found it took days, weeks, and even months for me to settle in, feel familiar and tentatively put down my roots in my new space. Sometimes I felt myself withering and wilting, needing just to sleep or cry until I felt at home again – found the corner store for bread and milk, or the nearest post office to send a card to the people I had left behind again and again. 

When Ada died, or sweet little Oscar, there was nothing to pull or tug at.

Just emptiness.

Silence … and a large hole in the space around.

Perhaps the roots of animals or people are the memories they leave behind, for it feels as if they have burrowed into my brain and heart, and settled deeply there forever …

… or, at least, until I finally slip away.


I received an email response to this post from an old friend, who agreed that I post it here:

Tamar, so melancholy!
I think about the roots we share often, the severing of them and the re-planting of them. It used to be a heart-wrenching topic for me, but in my mature years, it has become a sober and necessary metaphor to explain the crux of my personal history.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Healing dimensions: Part IV

Eight years ago at Tamarika: This little yogi went wee, wee, wee all the way home


Once again I find myself wondering why I want to write a memoir.

Recently I realized that both the books I wrote for early childhood educators are, in fact, types of memoirs, because I share my story so that teachers will feel comfortable exploring their own. I do this because I want them to learn self reflection so that they may improve their relationships with young children. Time and again I am surprised when readers of my books let me know that they are inspired by my story. I guess my surprise comes because that was not the original purpose when I wrote my books. My goal was to model self reflection, and show how "internal ethnography," as I call it, can help us (as teachers) improve our understanding of why we do what we do. Thus, we become more aware and intentional about our actions and behaviors, and are less inclined to unwittingly humiliate or hurt children in our care.

When readers are inspired by my story, my surprise also comes because I cannot imagine my story as inspiring anyone. After all, I have lived it all my life. It is old, familiar and habitual. My life script was written into the emotional memory templates of my brain decades ago, and my struggle to alter it has, indeed, been a challenge. But it was my challenge – still is – and even struggles and challenges are old, familiar and habitual by now. And yet, somehow, others are inspired by my story of resilience and how I survived and overcame my childhood trauma. As I start to see my story through the eyes of readers of my books, I understand differently what, in fact, I went through to become the person I am today.

And so, I guess that one of the reasons for writing memoir is to tell a story about how we survived trauma.

We are inspired by stories of resilience, because seeing how others are able to overcome trauma gives us hope to survive our own.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Benevolent dictator