Being “Home,” Being Adopted, Being Lemn Sissay

In the journey to and from home, there are many intersections, places where 2 or more roads meet. When you are expecting a delivery to your home, what do they ask you?

“What’s the nearest intersection?”

The synonyms for intersection are circle, cloverleaf, crossing, crosswalk, interchange, junction, stop.

Let’s make that a poem:

Intersection

Circle, cloverleaf, crossing, crosswalk.

Interchange, junction.

Stop.

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©: Maureen McCauley Evans

Consider the intersections of the poet/writer/broadcaster/foster care alum/Ethiopian adoptee/British citizen/MBE Lemn Sissay. “His head is in London where he’s based, his heart is in Manchester where he is not, his soul is in Addis and his vibe is in New York where his mother lives,” according to his website.

Lemn Sissay has a new BBC radio broadcast, taped at the Ghion Hotel in Addis, called “Homecoming.” He speaks about the various crossings of his life, and brings in several people who have traveled on some of the same roads as he has. He interviews two Ethiopian adoptees, raised in Holland and now living in Ethiopia, (An intersection: my daughter and I met also with those two lovely people in Addis last August.) He talks about Prince Alemayehu, about whom I’ve written several times. Lemn cooks with his Ethiopian sister. He recites poems to his audience at the Ghion. You can hear the cloverleaf of language in the broadcast, where Amharic is spoken, though not by Lemn, who speaks English, though he is Ethiopian.

He shares this poem:

…When I found out I am Ethiopian, I come home, and I am asked how Ethiopian I am.

At the end of the day, you are home where you are accepted. No?

You make home where you are accepted, and, in making that home, you accept it.

Home is not one place.

“Home” can be complicated, whether we are connected to adoption or not. I’d argue that the roads to adoption and from adoption are especially complicated. Lemn writes that “home” is not one place. It’s certainly not just a house or hut or hospital room, because those can and do disappear, either physically or in our memories. Perhaps adoptees start in one place, and often travel through many places which others may call “home” but they don’t feel fully safe, fully comfortable, fully right–until they do, until they can claim it themselves, in a way that no one else can. Perhaps in a way that no one but an adopted person can understand fully.

The radio show is called by the BBC a “Comedy of the Week,” in (I suppose) the English major sense of “comedy:” not everyone dies, the situation of the protagonist goes from bad to good, there is a happy ending. (Is that how adoption goes? Sometimes. Not always.) You might not laugh out loud while you listen, though you’ll likely smile. You may sigh as well, thinking about the losses alluded to, the roads not travelled, the differences made by wrong turns, missed exits, sketchy directions.

Lemn Sissay writes that, at the end of the day, you are home where you are accepted. Another innovative thinker wrote that, “We are all just walking each other home.”

May we be kind to each other on our journeys, and may we stop to understand those whose lives intersect with ours along the way.

Part 1 of Lemn Sissay’s Homecoming broadcast is available here. Part 2 will be available May 12.

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