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Rarely do members of the same family grow up under the same roof. - Richard Bach, Illusions
This weekend, millions will begin the homeward-bound journey for the holidays on board planes, trains and automobiles. It's also the time of year where many contemplate what "home" and "family" really means to them.

There was an interesting story this morning on KUOW, my local NPR station. They interviewed a Greek-American family who left Greece after WWII and settled in Seattle, WA. A few years ago, the family, along with their American-born children and grandchildren, returned to live in the village they left, only to find much change had taken place: faces from new immigrant races.

They also found something they didn't expect: when they are in Greece, they think of Seattle and vice versa. In the story, the interviewer said that academics have coined a name for people who commute between countries: transnationals. This was a surprise, for in economics the word has a very different meaning.

This got me thinking. What makes a person a transnational? Do they have more than one home? What happens during the holidays? And how does one define family if the members are far-flung across the planet?

My parents fled China in 1949, settled in Taiwan, then Hong Kong and then immigrated to Canada in 1973. I grew up here, but never fit in with the locals, white or Chinese. At the time, there were few post-CN Rail Chinese immigrants, and practically no statuesque Northerners like me. It was like being in the Twilight Zone.

My brothers and sisters live in the U.S. and in France. Even though one of my sisters is "coming home" next week with her husband and toddlers, wouldn't they be better off to stay in California? After all, the headcount of family members on his side outnumber hers by 25:1.

There are lots of questions. Can a village, city or even a country be considered home? What if all your stuff is in storage and you're on the road, living out of a suitcase? Does that make you homeless? Is having the resources to secure safe shelter the only difference between a transnational and a displaced person or a refugee? Can a dwelling be considered home? Is family the people found inside a dwelling? Or do they actually have to choose each other?

I guess there will be a lot of time to ponder as I sit on an airplane on Boxing Day, headed off to countries where I don't speak a word of the local language ... yet. Could I be a transnational in the making, or is this a euphemism for not really belonging anywhere? Maybe home is ... where one is always welcome. Perhaps family is ... a collection of people who accept us as we are. And maybe the word transnational should be left to its original meaning, because hopefully, we are all citizens of the world.



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