Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Green Green Grass of Home

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.


Ginnie said...

A very interesting blog...and I have always thought (like you) that it is very wrong to introduce something to an area that is foreign to how it should be...i.e.>
watering during a drought to get a green lawn. This is so typical of the type of person who only thinks of themselves and always has to outdo their neighbors.
Your background is fascinating and I'm glad you write of it.

Climenheise said...

I don't know if I noticed the green in the same way on earlier trips to the States, but I remember moving to the U.S. in 1965. You met us in London late April of that year. And England was so incredibly green in the Spring! I remember Kew Gardens from that trip. Then we flew back to Pennsylvania, and it also was so incredibly green. Even though we had left Zimbabwe at the end of the rainy season, it could not compare for lush grass everywhere along the road. Oh yes, I remember the green!

Meanwhile in Manitoba Winter has returned. It's cold here: no green grass yet!

Anonymous said...

I can identify, though at a different level of maturity (I was 10 when I "returned" from Africa and 27 when I returned (no quotes this time) with your mother to Africa. I still remember picking up Daryl & family, after your mother was gone, and driving from Newark to Harrisburg, pointing out to his two sons how green the countryside was, and it was at the end of a dry sunmer. I thought the countryside was brown. Love, Father "C"

Ginger said...

How interesting. Having grown up on a tropical island, my impression of America (while on furlough) was that it was a sandy color and there were no trees ... or very few, anyhow. Now, in the rolling wheatfields of Washington state, I still miss the lush greenness of Malaysia, and the jungle sneaking into the city wherever it could.

Pam said...

Your stories are enlightening and facinating. And, like you, I love the green, but not when it means a waste of water to have it where it doesn't belong.

Your necklace is smashing!

Mary said...

During a drought, no use in watering. It's wasted. Period. I do put water on new plants, though :o/

I can read through your posts in seconds, Donna. They flow so easily, perhaps because of your writing and your topics that grab me.

From brown to green must have been spectacular to you.

Anonymous said...

When it snows, I try hard to photoshop my white snow to make it look green! Never works right! I agree that America is very green looking! Then again, it is my favorite color!

dmmgmfm said...

Your stories are always so interesting, I really look forward to hearing about your childhood adventures.

Cathy said...

I reread "A Charmed Childhood." It fills me with a bit of longing - a longing for the kind of childhood that challenged and in so doing - strengthened. Do you ever wonder what you might have done/become without the exotic, sometimes difficult challenges of those years?

Yes! Green. Celebrate the return of green. I'm so afraid I'll miss the first mowings that always smell so sweet.