There is always a day in late March or early April when the grass suddenly greens. Whether the winter has been harsh or mild, the grass goes dormant and browns. Then comes spring and--a little bit of rain, a little bit of sun--poof: green grass.
With a rush of memory, I recall my first conscious impression of America--it was GREEN. When my parents returned to the United States in the mid-1950s, we sailed into New York City harbor, and then rode with my grandparents back to Harrisburg, PA. With no interstates yet, our journey took us through wonderful country side, over rolling hills, past farmland and lots and lots of green green grass. That was my first impression. Greenness everywhere.I am sure part of why I was so susceptible to all the green was that it stood in stark contrast to the colors of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in southern Africa. There, the landscape is dominated by browns. There are flashes of brilliance, such as after the heavy rains of the rainy season, when cacti bloom sending up gorgeous poker flowers that are red. Or there are the flame lilies everywhere (I have a necklace that features a flame lily). And there are the grey lichen covered rocks of the Matobo Hills. But there is nowhere then that you would see the ordinary green of a mowed lawn.
Now, I realize there are many places in the U.S. that should NOT have green lawns and do. And I know how water wasteful lawns can be. One of my main summertime gripes is the recalcitrant neighbor who insists on watering during a drought. No, no, NO--I want to scream as I walk past his house.
But in my child's experience, the green was breathtaking. When I returned to Africa, and saw my school mates, they asked--what is America like? My answer--it is green. This remark would get me in trouble later on, when I was being disciplined before the dormitory council, the student leaders mockingly said--so, how is GREEN America?
Perhaps the visual difference between a country I had just left and the one I was seeing now magnified the displacement I felt. But it took some getting used to all the green.
I previously wrote about being a third culture kid (TCK) which essentially describes growing up in a culture other than your birth culture, and then finding yourself in between the two. So you "make" a hybrid or third culture. That way you avoid the displacement that can occur as you go back and forth between two cultures--the third culture is always with you.
The sense of displacement is something other members of my family have examined--partly, trying to answer the question of where is home? My brother has written about returning to see the country of his birth, here and here. My nephew has written about various places he has lived and how it feels to go from place to place.
I have lived in Harrisburg now for almost 40 years. So I feel no displacement at all as an adult. But the green grass of spring did zip me back to that first experience of America, the green.
Photo credits--except for the ones of the green grass and of the flame lily necklace,
the photos come from my brother or my nephew.