My Musing Space: Feeling homesick

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Feeling homesick

I have read someone's blog notes wondering if it was possible for us to be homesick for places other than our homes. So I asked myself: what is Home?

I grew up in a family that moved a lot, therefore in my childhood home was where my family was, wherever that may have been. At a young age I learned to differentiate between the warmth of familiar faces and the setting that surrounded them. The physical arrangement of the home may have been different every time we moved, but the warmth and the love inside the walls was always the same.

When I had to go away to university, the first time away from those faces for a longer time, I felt the pain of separation, I missed my family. Yet, the pain was strangely familiar. Contemplating it, I realised that I felt the same pain every time we moved. Familiarity breeds attachment, and we can get attached not only to family and friends, oddly enough we can miss annoying neighbours, too. Not to speak of familiar surroundings, places where something significant took place at one time or another. When we walk through familiar neighbourhoods, pass in front of cafes we used to frequent with good friends, or even shops where we found items that later became part of our lives, without actually thinking about it. our brain registers the significance that those places hold for us, it generates a certain warmth inside of us, they feel familiar, comforting.

Now let me repeat the question: what is Home? Home is the place where we feel comfortable, to which we feel a certain degree of attachment, familiarity, a place or moment in time that makes us somehow feel at peace, at home. This feeling can and does develop every time we live in a place long enough to collect a bagful of pleasant experiences, so that next time we are there we can evoke those memories and they make us feel warm inside, make us feel that slightly bittersweet pain of knowing that we left that place behind, of missing it when we are somewhere else and remember being there. This means that we can and do feel homesick often in our lives, longing to be again with people with grew to like, to be in in certain spots where we experienced moments of a sort of joyful connection with the "here and now".

Looking back on my life, a life that starts to reach a significant length by now, I realise that I had lots of such moments. Moments that did not register for what they were for a long time. Now I know them and I savour them when I experience them. We do so throughout our lives. So that is why I often feel homesick.

I remember and miss the moment of sitting on a sunlit bench in Nice, France, pregnant and full of exuberant expectations, munching on a generous piece of warm, spicy socca, bathing in the noises of the city, the shouts of street vendors, the hungry squawking of seagulls... But one cannot ever describe the full experience.

I remember and miss the friendly couple in Mexico, who invited me to the back of their modest shop, which happened to be their two room apartment, and where we spent a wonderful evening together with their delightful children who looked at us, odd strangers from another land, with condescending acceptance. I miss them...


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