We made yearly trips to West Virginia to visit relatives. We always got a warm welcome from our relatives and enjoyed visiting with them. But even there, where my parents were natives, I was an outlander. I shared blood with these relatives, but I lived too far away from them to share the experience of daily life. I was growing up in another world - a world of beaches and palm trees that contrasted sharply to the mountains of West Virginia. To add to my sense of isolation, I was an only child so there were no brothers or sisters to share my outlander status.
I was an outlander in the Florida fishing village where I spent my childhood. Most people who lived there fell into one of two categories. They were either descendants of the original settlers of the county or they were in the Air Force, stationed at the nearby base. I enjoyed neither the comraderie of the Air Force kids or the full acceptance of the settlers' children.
I am an outlander here in southeastern Louisiana where my husband's roots run deep. Cajuns are friendly people, but they hold blood and roots in high regard. When you meet a Cajun for the first time, he's likely to ask who your parents are. Sometimes you get the feeling that you're set on the sidelines when you say your parents are from another state. If nothing else betrays my outlander status, my speech will. I've lived here for 45 years, but often - as soon as I open my mouth - someone will say, "You're not from here, are you?"
I suppose life is easier for an outlander if he lives in a big city. After all, cities are where outlanders collect. There are so many outlanders from so many different places that outlander status is the norm. But in small towns, the natives congregate and talk about their roots and their blood connections, and it's easy for an outlander to feel like a fifth wheel.
After a lifetime of being an outlander, it's no wonder that I was drawn to Diana Gabaldon's book, Outlander. It's a time-traveling adventure. I can relate to it because being a lifetime outlander is a little like time-traveling. Not quite - but almost.