Saturday, November 27, 2010
I left home at age sixteen to go to college in a town 120 miles away. Although I was itching to get out of the house, I found to my surprise that I was terribly homesick when I got to my new dormitory. I called home at least once a day and drove my parents crazy, especially my mom who wanted me to stay home for college in the first place. One night, I couldn't find my parents at home, so I called my sister Rhonda, who said, "Yes, they're here having dinner, and they could use a break from your whining, so go find something to do and leave them alone." (She probably said it more sweetly than that, but that's what I heard at the time.) After about a week or so, my classes started, I made friends, and that was the end of my homesickness.
In 1995, I moved to Louisville, KY, again for school, and again experienced homesickness. In addition to missing my family, I missed the sunny winters, changes in elevation, and the beautiful Western sunsets against a broad horizon. I would drive down to the Ohio River or just around the elevated loop freeways just to see the sun setting behind something other than buildings or trees. My family came out to visit often, but I was only able to go home once a year, at Christmas. Although I knew when I moved to Louisville that I might not be getting back to Arizona, I couldn't shake the yearning for my home and planned to move back after graduation, but of course I met Joe before that happened. When I agreed to marry Joe, I told him that we would need to move back to some part of the West in the near future, and we moved to Flagstaff just after our second wedding anniversary (curiously, due to something he wanted to do, but I wasn't arguing).
While we lived in Flagstaff, Joe had to handle his homesickness, more of family than of place, so he would travel back each year at Thanksgiving. I would head to the much closer Valley (that's the local term for the Phoenix area) more frequently, especially when the weather was right. I would toss an email to my sisters or mother once in awhile, but didn't have much of a regular visit with family.
Now that we are here in China, Rhonda has asked if we are homesick, and I have always said no, but that's not entirely true. It's just that now, the feeling is different than the terrible pangs of my teenage years or the endless ache of my sojourn in Kentucky. Here, I just get little reminders that I'm very far away: seeing a picture from home (like the one above taken last week), a note asking if our apartment building was involved in a recent fire (it wasn't us), wanting a particular piece of clothing or kitchen utensils (the search for the potato masher reached comic proportions), and this week, Thanksgiving without my family (and having to go to work on top of it). We arranged to talk to both our families, and Joe and I had our first dinner party with some of our new friends, but it wasn't the same at all, and I think my attitude on Thursday was affected by the distance. Fortunately, I am finding that homesickness is easier to conquer here, usually by going out and doing something fun - dinner with friends, dancing in a local park, even having the nice folks at Best Hair "straighten me out." I'm not sure if this is because this new adventure is still so exciting (I am always expecting someone to yell, "Cut, that's a wrap!") or because the older me knows that time is really fleeting and I'll be back home again before I know it. We are also much more regular about talking to our families through Skype, and my weekly emails have taken the place of my blog. Jack the Dog, by the way, is doing very well, having attached himself to my brother-in-law Andy, so I guess some parting is easier to take.
Just the same, Rhonda, it's hard sometimes, but I'm still trying to take your good advice and not whine about it... too much.