According to family lore, and a great deal of genealogical research on the part of my Great Aunt, about half of my family (My dad’s side) stems from England, having immigrated to the New World even before the United States won it’s freedom… and as far as I know nobody in the family has been back since.
Technically my genes make England the homeland for me, but I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in a land I had only dreamed of for my entire life (Thank you J.K. Rowling and a host of other British authors). Should it have felt like coming home? Or was my ancestry far too distant? At what point does an ancestry become far too distant to feel a connection? I certainly felt more of a literary connection than a cultural connection!
I should have felt comfortable there than other places I’ve travelled (which I did to some extent thanks to the familiar sounds of English surrounding me in every direction for the first time in four months), but overall I felt like more of a tourist in England than I did anywhere else. I gawked at the cars driving on the “wrong” side of the street, insisted on eating “fish and chips”, and took a tour to stare at Big Ben and all related landmarks. Perhaps it was just my excitement that made me so touristy, but it certainly wasn’t the reaction of an English girl at last making the voyage to her homeland.
Oddly enough, I felt more “At home” in Israel last year than I did in England, even though the last ancestor of mine to live in Israel isn’t even remotely within recorded family history, probably having left in the diaspora thousands of years ago. In Israel I speak about ten words of the local language- a striking comparison to England where I’m almost fluent in the language (Really, British English and American English do have some interesting points of divergence- I still haven’t figured out what “busking” is). Yet despite the lingual divide, Israel feels more like home.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that the sense of home really is a highly subjective matter. For me, perhaps the practice of Judaism in my home kept the link to Israel much stronger, whereas the roots in England had to be rediscovered and never contributed to any familial practices. And in the end, I suppose the fact remains that I’m simply an American abroad- and an American who will be re-entering American soil at the end of May for the first time in nearly five months. What a weird feeling that will be! The feeling of home will likely smother me then!
Bonus tidbit: I got a good laugh two days later in Dublin when an Irishman saw my last name (Brown) and my freckles and promptly welcomed me “home” to a land which I had zero connection to, but soon found I liked very much.