sweet.” He kissed me on the forehead. I felt sure that Madame Babushka was a con artist. “She’s nice,” I said. “And she seemed to like you.” “I’m a bonny lad,” David said. “That you are.” Though I knew my mother’s stories, I couldn’t connect the tales of my grandmother’s cruelty to that old, blind woman sitting on a plastic-covered couch. I knew David wouldn’t be able to understand. I didn’t even understand. The thing I knew for certain was that David’s family seemed less complicated, more normal, and I wanted to believe mine was too. So having a “sweet grandmother” felt good. Maybe that’s why I vowed to get my mother back to England before her mother died. That would be the right thing to do, the normal thing. My mother might see that Nanny wasn’t the mean version that lived inside her head. Or maybe I knew that my grandmother and my mother both live inside of me, and I wanted them to reconcile. Maybe then I could untangle the mess of characteristics and choose the ones I want to keep and let go of the others. They were both survivors, but their main pathway to survival was denial. I had learned to live that way too. I was ready to stop pretending. For me, that meant travel, getting away from the framework I had built and really being with myself—the deep self that I kept hidden away like a photograph in a locket. Everyone said, “You will have to come back eventually and face reality.” But that’s what I was doing by travelling. Reality can live inside the escape—where the scaffolding that holds us to something we call home falls away, and we have no choice but to face ourselves, where we have to question our narratives, the stories about ourselves that were never really true. Travelling to England was a going away, but it was also a way to come home.
Featuring essays by Alice Lowe, Elizabeth Mosier, Ben Wirth, Adrian Koesters, and many others.