Sunday, December 09, 2007

2. On Homesickness


Candelaria Complementaria, originally uploaded by diegomccormick.

Every night in the hospital, a member of the housekeeping crew would stop in my doorway to chat. His subject was homesickness, a topic that was particularly resonant for me, since I, too, was longing for the familiar clang and clatter of home.

My friend was from Colombia. He'd been in the U.S. for twenty-two years and his children had been born here. Still, when he went to sleep every night, he dreamed of his old home in Medellin, a place he could only afford to visit every few years.

"Every night for twenty-two years!' he emphasized.

But wasn't Medellin home of the drug cartels? One of the most violent cities on earth?

"No!" he insisted, the violence had abated in recent years; and besides, that had never been his Medellin. His city was the city of eternal spring where the weather is always magnificent. His city was the place where neighbors sat on their stoops and laughed together at night, a place where street festivals lasted all night, and everyone--young and old--came out to dance.

His Medellin was a place where colors were brighter, where food had more taste, and you couldn't walk through the neighborhood without hearing the sound of music.

He spoke so passionately about his lost home that for three nights I dreamed I was there, dancing all night at a street festival, wandering through neighborhoods transformed by vivid color and music.

But on the fourth night, when he stopped to talk about how much he missed his family, how a brother had died while he was away, and he'd never had an opportunity to attend the funeral, my own homesick dreams also took a turn.

That night I dreamed of my first home, of the trees outside the closet-sized room with the pink rose wallpaper where I spent my childhood, and the scent of lilac in the spring. In the next room my parents argued and loved, dreamed and worried. Our lives there, now vanished, seemed as solid and indestructible as those tall oaks and catalpas outside my window. When I woke up, the feeling of being in that house were so real that it seemed impossible that I could never return. That it had become a lost kingdom.

My last night in the hospital I watched for my friend from Colombia, but he didn't appear. Apparently, it was his night off. He was probably spending it at home with his wife, and with the daughters who considered the U.S. home--the oldest one a nursing student, the younger one earning straight As in private school. For them, my friend said, he had given up his home.

Still my homesick dreams continued. But this time they were filled with the sounds and colors of the life I live now: my daughter coming in from her student teaching every day, tired but full of stories, my son's inexhaustible guitar, ordinary days spent writing, and hanging laundry, and having dinner with Ted. My own version of the "place of eternal spring"--even in New England winter.

The next day I was released to that old life, but with a new sense and appreciation for its precariousness, its preciousness, with a new sense that even this beloved time and place will one day be a house where the door is locked to me forever.

43 comments:

Tinker said...

Home is such a amazing word - it means some place different to everyone, yet we all know exactly what the other person means when they say 'home.'
I'm glad you're back home with your family, Patry. Wishing you blissfully well - sending you much love, healing light, and many ((hugs))~

zhoen said...

Beware nostalgia.

Be home.

Patry Francis said...

tinker: Thanks for faithfully checking in--and for your light.

zhoen: You always manage to encapsulate so much wisdom into a few words. BE HOME. Yes, that is it, isn't it?

Rebecca Clayton said...

How beautiful--to dream of so many homes!

leslee said...

Glad to see that you're home, Patry. (And funny - we must have had similar homes - I had pink and white checked wallpaper and lilac bushes outside the window.) Things do see much more precarious these days, contingent, yet all the more precious. Wishing you continued healing.

Kerstin said...

Your post reminds me of Ikea's latest commercial: "Home - the most important place in the world." And it is, isn't it, in all its different shapes and forms that mean "home" to someone. Home is about the people in your life, but it can also be a very physical place, like the house you grew up in, or a city that feels like home even though you weren't born in it. Home is where your soul and heart find rest.

I totally get the Colombian man's homesickness; I don't think that I will ever completely get over my homesickness for England, especially knowing that I will never return to live there.

Home, as you know, is also a wonderful healing place. Be home. Be healed. :)

(By the way, I've been to Medellin and I was pretty scared, but I, too, remember the colors and the music.)

rdl said...

It was so nice seeing you in your home on Fri. You looked amazingly well, damn good!!

rdl said...

;you are amazing, is what i meant to say.
Take care,
Be well.

Larramie said...

Zheon offers such good advice. Being home is where you and your thoughts belong.

Patry Francis said...

Rebecca: Traveling to Colombia and back to my childhood was a great escape from the white world of the hospital.

leslee: There's something about the a childhood bedroom that never leaves you...every color, every scent, the sound the brass handles on the bureau drawers made when slammed shut. I guess that means childhood rooms should be furnished with care...Thanks so much for your good wishes.

Kerstin: I know you are a person who understands homesickness well. It seems to be both the blessing and the curse of those who have deeply loved two very distant places.

r: It was great to see you on Friday. I hope to model my Brockton Boxer sweatshirt on the blog one days soon.

Patry Francis said...

Larramie: Always happy to see your daisies here. You're right: my friend Zhoen is a wise woman--and so are you.

marja-leena said...

A familiar sounding childhood bedroom, a place where we dreamed many dreams. I hope some of them came true. I'm so glad you are back home and writing again! Wishing you more happy dreams as you continue to heal, Patry. By the way, I love the photo.

Sky said...

Home...from ours to yours, love and holiday wishes glide across this cold rainy night, meeting other wintry weather along the way.Stay warm and cozy.

Glad you are back in your HOME. I have given much thought to what you have written here. So much was stirred by your words. "Home" is a complex concept for me, and so many different feelings rush through me when I think of my early years in the only home I ever lived in as a child. After I went away to college my parents moved to the house they live in now, one I have no real attachment to other than it is the place where we visit them now.

My housekeeper is from Brazil and misses so much about home. I always see a hint of sadness when anything about Brazil comes up in conversation. It makes me feel sad when I see it.

As you know, my hubby is from India. He misses Indian food most of all but sometimes seems nostalgic while telling me a story of his young life. 13,000 miles away from all the familiar places, and I thought my 3,000 miles was a long journey.

Marilyn said...

Home...surely the most complicated 4-letter word in our language. Beautiful post, Patry. So good to be reading your posts again.

bella said...

To know we are at home always, is to know rest.
May your renewed appreciation for all those things that make up "ordinary" extraordinary life never go to sleep.

Fred Garber said...

There is that longing. It is so strong. My wife, who is from Mexico, decided to make some Christmas tamales. We went to several different store until she found just the right corn husks. She will be making some pineapple tamales, some cinnamon tamales and some chicken ones. The 5 degree Iowa weather has here longing....

saraarts said...

I'm so glad you're home again.

xoxoxoxo

KG said...

Home is such a huge, emotional concept for me. I moved around a lot as a child, and it taught me to make my home wherever I was. I found this post and your stories quite moving and inspiring, especially during the holiday season.

Home -- a wonderful place, but not always such an easy place to claim. I keep going back to Zhoen's advice to "be home" -- so true, so true.

Lisa said...

I know those dreams. Mine are always of the house my grandmother used to have, never any other place. That you now dream of the home you've made makes me smile.

Yes. Be home. What a beautiful sentiment.

Sustenance Scout said...

Patry, I thought I'd check in "real quick" and now I've been wallowing in the words of your last two posts and their comments for half an hour. The concept of home (especially at the holidays) is so powerful, isn't it? I wish I could be home back East where my parents are and where many of my sibs will get together this Christmas, but at the same time I'm always so eager and happy to give my children holiday memories in their own home. Funny how that works. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to enjoy a few nostalgic dreams of my own this Christmas. So glad you're feeling well enough to post. It's always so good to hear your stories! Love, K.

Jessie said...

there is a fullness in your words that is overflowing with a profound sense of love. i can feel it and it fill my heart as well.

be well. know that i am thinking about you!

floots said...

glad you're home
cheers

robin andrea said...

I have been thinking about home for days. I'm not sure I have one now, although I have two addresses. You stir something that has been nagging at me lately, what it means to be home. In some sense I feel homeless at the moment. I am so glad you are home, Patry, really home.

Sally (http://sallycrawford.typepad.com) said...

Patry,

Much love.

And Attagirl!

Patry Francis said...

marja-leena: Someday it might be fun if we all blogged about the first bedroom we remember. As you say, so much began there...

Sky: You and your wonderful hubby are a wonderful example of "being home" wherever you are--and helping others to feel the same.

Marilyn: Home: it is a good place. Sometimes a not so good place. It is a place to run away from, and a place to return. It is what we always long for, but find only temporarily. Yes, it is one of the most complex of words.

(I have more to say later, but for now, I have a visitor...)

colleen said...

I welled up today re-reading that old post about my son Dylan and now I am welling up thinking about your children and what you and they mean to each other. Can we still call them children? Our children, yes.

Welcome home, Patry.

Neil said...

I can hear you healing, even in your words.

Moanna said...

Your writing takes my thoughts back to my childhood home with the lilacs and catalpa and a certainty that it would all last. Beautiful writing. I'm glad you're home now.

Dave said...

In a hospital bed
with a view of bare branches,
dreams of long-lost homes.

MB said...

I'm glad you are home and healing, Patry. Much love to you.

Peter said...

A gorgeous piece, Patry, especially the last paragraph. Instant lump in my throat. Right on.

herhimnbryn said...

'The irreplaceable embrace of home.....where love awaits me and the kettle's always on the boil' Jan Morris.
Dear Patry PAX.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Just thinking of you, Patry..
xoxo

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you and sending good wishes -- and glad to hear you are home

Maria (formerly of alembic)

bevjackson said...

A lovely post...just popped in to wish you good holidays and a wonderful new 2008.

SweetAnnee said...

Hi..I just got home from the hospital today from my surgery..I'll be walking with you on this path..
Isn't it great to be home??~~
fondly, Deena

twoblueday.wordpress.com said...

Home. What a loaded word!
Hope you are making good progress.
My blog post today was an homage to all the strong women I've "met" blogging, and you were definitely in my mind. Hope you get to watch the little videos.

Note that I'm signing in with the "nickname" feature, since blogger doesn't like us outsiders any more.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Patry, so glad to hear your strong, sweet, sensitive voice and to know it's back in your own home, getting stronger every day.

steve said...

Patry,

Another beautifully written post. I've been given the opportunity to award the Shameless Lion's "Roar for Powerful Words award. Claim yours at:

http://ontheslowtrain.blogspot.com/2007/12/roar-for-powerful-words.html

All the best,
Steve

Alice said...

Hi Patry,

Just checking in on this freezing cold Monday morning -- I hope this week brings bright spirits and some good holiday cheer... We are all thinking about you and sending positive karma and prayers your way! xxxxxAlice & Co.

Myfanwy Collins said...

Thinking of you, Patry.

Amber said...

I am happy you are home. I hope you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas. I bet you will. I bet this year it will seem even more special and full of love. ;)

:)

Anonymous said...

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