My daughter Aubrey was doing some scholarly work at the British Museum. She asked me to meet her in London and accompany her for some site-seeing trips when she completed her research. My ancestors are from the British Isles and I had sometimes wondered if England was my true home. I’d often dreamed of visiting all the places I’d only read about – perhaps even living in a thatched roof cottage and writing novels like Dickens, Austen or Hardy. So this invitation was like a dream come true.
After a trans-Atlantic flight I found myself using quaint red telephone booths, riding the tube and visiting Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, London Bridge, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, Greenwich, Kensington Palace, Stonehenge, Oxford and Cambridge. I’d studied British history and literature all my life and now I was really there where it all happened, breathing in the damp air and walking the misty mores. I was beginning to wonder why my ancestors left.
On the way back to the airport at the end of my vacation, I sat in a train next to a middle aged woman. She’d been to London to see an exhibit. She watched me as I stared wide-eyed out the window noticing every quaint row house or manicured rose garden.
“Oh, it’s so beautiful here,” I said. “There’s so much history every where you look, and it’s so green. Don’t you just love living here?”
The woman lowered her eyebrows and answered, “Oh my dear, everything is so old here - musty, rusted-out or broken. You can’t find a good man to repair anything - so you’re always in a pinch.”
Then she asked me where I lived. I told her my home was out west in the United States on two acres in Utah. She became animated and asked me several questions.
“Oh, I’ve always wanted to live in the States, especially in the West. Everything is so new there - wide open spaces and endless possibilities - sunshine almost every day.”
I realized she longed for what I had but couldn’t see what she had. I wondered if I was the same way. As I listened to her, I pictured my great-grandmothers and fathers standing on the docks waiting to board a huge ship bound for the colonies in America. Then I imagined other ancestors as they left behind their lush green gardens and farms in Nauvoo Illinois. My people gave up the easy life to find a place where they could live according to the dictates of their own conscience. Their lives would have been so much easier and safer if they had stayed, but they left . . . for me. I would not have the rich life I enjoy today without their courage. Now, at long last, I could finally appreciate their gift.
Later that day as I looked out the window of the airplane, I watched the great Rocky Mountain corridor come into view much like the castles or palaces I had just left behind. I was going home. I was not looking beyond the next hill or bend in the road any more. What I had was enough. Life was no longer greener on the other side of the world, only different.
If we never see what we already have, we never find our way home.