Roots: Misha Herwin

The big old trees that line the Brampton spread their roots under the pavement, so that the tarmac knots and swells like varicose veins. Saplings, their seeds delivered by birds, send roots into the cracks in a chimney, or the fissure in a wall.
Given the opportunity Nature will take over our towns and cities, burst through the concrete and the brick, camouflage our decaying buildings, or overwhelm them as the jungle did the temples of Ankor Watt. So deeply were whole complexes buried beneath the vegetation that for hundreds of years no one knew they were there.
We now know whole forests are in fact one entity, that each tree is bound to the rest and what happens to one effects them all. Aware of their connection with the world in which they lived Native Americans used to apologise to a tree if they had to cut it down.
Family roots too are deep and interconnected. Losing one member rocks the structure. Things change and have to be reassessed. Without Mum, my brother sister and I are now orphans, I’m now the matriarch in our family and we’ve lost an important link to our past.
Fortunately for us, we have Mum’s memoir but even yesterday in conversation with Mike I was wondering about the parents about one of my school friends. They were both German and had come, like my mum and dad, to England after WW2. I had a vague memory that the grandfather had been a Nazi general. If that were true, how did this family find itself living happily in the UK? The person to ask was Mum…
Mum herself had been torn from her roots when her family was deported to the USSR. Then she and dad had to make a new life for themselves in a country they didn’t know. We grew up speaking two languages and with traditions and attitudes that belonged to a place we had never been.
Throughout my childhood I felt that I never fitted in the world in which I lived. We didn’t have grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who lived nearby like everyone else. Ours were somewhere behind an Iron Curtain, in a Poland we could never hope to visit. We lived in a new estate, where we had little in common with our neighbours. To emphasise this difference we didn’t even go to the same schools.
Being an outsider is often a prerequisite to being a writer. You view people from a little bit of a distance, you analyse and observe, all of which are useful skills.
It also left me with a longing to settle down in one place and among the many ironies of my life is that I have, up to now, moved house seven times, and that’s not counting leaving home. Kingsfield Oval is rapidly becoming the place I’ve stayed the longest and with the quirkiness of the road, our lovely house and garden and above all our next door friends and neighbours it’s somewhere I’m more than happy to put down some roots


janedwards said…
Roots matter :-)
Umberto Tosi said…
What a fascinating family saga, torn between worlds, not only countries, you survived to tell the tale. I know the feeling of suddenly realizing that the death of a parent has pushed one into to lonely circle of being a family elder, a place one never imagined one would be. All grist for a writer's mill, though no easier to live by virtue of that.

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