Roots and Wings: Family Ties

My family is the anchor that has given me the most stability. I hope to anchor Claire with our love so that she can soar in this extraordinary world.

Corrinne May | January 21, 2014 @ 01:21 am

“When will you be home?” she asks, as we watch the planes take off. We both know we have no clear answer to where my dreams may lead. She’s watched me as I’ve crawled and stumbled. As a child, she was my world. And now to let me go, I know she bleeds, and yet she says to me, “You can fly so high, keep your gaze upon the sky. I’ll be praying every step along the way. Even though it breaks my heart to know we’ll be so far apart, I love you too much to make you stay. Baby, fly away.”

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One of my favourite storybooks is ‘The Giving Tree’ by Shel Silverstein.

The themes of love and sacrifice are intrinsically intertwined in our lives and it helps to always reflect on where we are, where we’ve come from and where we are going.

This column is my ‘journal’ of sorts, to explore the intersection between the roots and wings of this life.


I wrote those lyrics not too long after I had moved to Los Angeles to pursue my music career.

Homesick for Singapore and still stinging from being torn from my loved ones at the departure gates of Changi Airport, I was incredibly moved and touched by how my parents were willing to let me fly off to live in the US, despite the fact that they missed having me there with them in Singapore.

They loved me enough to let me go, to let me fly with unfurled wings. It was an incredible lesson in love.

I was moved to reflect on their gift to me when I came across a quote by German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that reads : “There are two things children should get from their parents : Roots and wings.”

We need both roots and wings. Without roots, one cannot fly.

When I think of roots, I think of a big majestic tree with gnarly, muscled legs, dug deep into the ground. I think of the strong winds that often challenge the tree, pushing and swaying its branches this way and that, and how the tree bends with the seasons, but doesn’t break. I think of a tree planted in good, rich soil such that the forces of erosion are powerless against its stability.

What are my roots?

Roots come in all shapes and sizes : Physical roots to the land and the environment one is raised in; emotional roots to the friends and experiences one has had the privilege to live through, cultural roots that link us, through celebrations and stories to the ancestors that came before us, familial ties and roots that link us as an ever-continuing chain to our grandparents, great-grandparent, spiritual roots that help us make sense of our place in this world, Moral roots through which we learn right and wrong, roots of education where we are schooled to think in certain ways.

Some of these run deeper into the soil of our being, some have just started carving beneath the surface of our identity. And yet all have their place in helping us understand the type of person we have grown to be.

Out of all these roots, the main root, the one that has given me the most stability, the one that has anchored me, has been the root of my family.

Throughout all of the ups and downs in my life, I’ve always known that I was secure in my parents’ love. They showed me that love in many ways. But one of the main ways, was that we spent time together as a family. They showed me their love, not with expensive gifts, but with the most precious gift : the gift of their time.

After all, Time is what enables the fragile hair-like roots of a tiny seedling to become the giant, capable-of-breaking-concrete, roots of a majestic tree.

My mother, despite working 9-5 as a dental nurse, would always make the effort to cook us a delicious dinner at the end of the day, no matter how tired she was.

My father would always give me a kiss goodnight before I went to bed.

We would always sit down at the table to have a meal as a family at least once a day. And every Sunday, we would attend mass as a family.

These little things added up. They gave me a sense of security, a sense of stability in my little, otherwise ever changing world. They allowed my roots to sink deep in the knowledge that I was safe and loved; that I was an important member of my family.

These little things are what I hope to give my daughter Claire as she grows up. We sit down for a family meal during dinner and we talk about our day. We say a prayer as a family before tucking Claire to bed. We attend mass at church together on Sundays. We play together with her stuffed toys, her tea set. We involve her in our lives, we bring her with us when we have music concerts to perform for, we read and re-read her favourite storybooks.

Just like the roots of a sapling that eventually grow strong and deep, all these little roots that we nurture now, will hopefully one day, anchor Claire in the knowledge of the love that her parents have for her, so that she can soar high when she is ready to leave and explore this extraordinary world.


Read Corrinne’s 1st column here:

Roots and Wings: My tug-of-war between Singapore and Los Angeles


Top photo from here.

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About Corrinne May

Corrinne May writes songs to make the world a happier place. She loves revisiting her childhood through her daughter’s eyes and thanks God that her husband is a better cook than she is.Corrinne May writes songs to make the world a happier place. She loves revisiting her childhood through her daughter’s eyes and thanks God that her husband is a better cook than she is.

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