It Took Me 30 Years, but I Finally Put Down Roots



As I write this, I’m lounging on the glider in my 96-year-old aunt’s home in the rural South Carolina town where my father grew up. Because my family always visited here on home leave, this house is the closest thing to roots in my life. Memories of dogwoods, Carolina peaches, and swims in the neighbor’s pool soak my imagination.

While I love the idea of roots, in most Foreign Service families, some degree of change and upheaval is the norm. I had a tumultuous adolescence, attending three high schools—all away from home.

First, in 1965, was the Karachi American School, where I boarded with a U.S. military family; my father had been assigned to the new Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and there, barely any roads or infrastructure existed, let alone an English-language high school.

A year later, I was one of about 15 students who lived at the “Hostel,” a boarding unit attached to the Lahore American School. I spent only one year there because my parents were concerned about my adjustment. So, for my two final years of high school, they sent me to St. Mary’s, an all-girls’ Episcopal boarding school in Raleigh, North Carolina, where my grandmother had gone.

My first year at St. Mary’s was tough. I made heavy use of the sky-blue self-sticking aerograms popular back then. But by my second year, I had made lifelong friends and felt a sense of belonging.

You’d think, with all that turbulence, in adulthood I’d settle down. Far from it! After graduating from college in New Orleans, I wanted somewhere new. Vancouver, British Columbia, appealed to me for its mountains and multicultural population, and—best of all—Canada was a new country. A few months after moving there, I became certified to teach English as a second language and met my future husband, British-born Barry.

Maybe we’re like other migrating creatures who create a nest wherever they go.

Four years later, everything changed abruptly. My mother died of pancreatic cancer at 53, only five weeks after diagnosis, and not long after, my 16-year-old brother was killed in a head-on collision. To be closer to the remnants of my family, I moved to Boston. Barry joined me, and we got married. He applied for a green card but couldn’t find a job. Plus, the winters were grim.

What to do, where to go? I remember exhausting discussions with friends offering advice. Austin! Eugene! Boulder! The wealth of options was intimidating, and I felt overwhelmed and drained. Too much freedom is no freedom.

Undecided, Barry and I moved from city to city in the U.S., landing in Palo Alto for 12 years, until in 2001, the year I turned 50, we bought a camper van. We traveled up the California coast looking for a new home base. In Eureka, the “Victorian seaport,” we found a loft-like apartment a block from the bay. “Let’s try it out and see,” I said to Barry. Ha! We’re still there.

Two years later, we sold our Palo Alto home and bought an old adobe house in the town of Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage city in central Mexico, where we now split our time.

Looking back, in some ways our earlier married life seems confused, as we zigzagged north to south, west to east, and back again, moving restlessly between four U.S. states and one Canadian province, an echo from all my adolescent moves. Yet just like my younger self, wherever we lived, we always adapted and made friends.

Now we’ve found our rhythm, and we’re rooted enough. Maybe we’re like other migrating creatures who create a nest wherever they go. We’re more wanderers and explorers than settlers. Changes may come, of course. I’m 71, Barry’s 80. Who knows in 10 years if our lifestyle will still be sustainable.

For now, when someone asks where they’ll find us, I smile. “It’s not hard. We’re usually somewhere in the Americas.”

Louisa Rogers is a writer who divides her life between Eureka, California, and Guanajuato, Mexico. The daughter of Jordan Thomas Rogers, who served as an FSO from 1947 to 1975, she grew up in Hungary, Argentina, Ecuador, Maryland, and Pakistan. Her Reflection, “The Lure of the ‘Painful Childhood,’” appeared in the September 2022 FSJ.


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