Homesickness is a big problem for me this time of year. I don’t even mean the “holiday season” in general, but Thanksgiving specifically. I really, really liked Thanksgiving, growing up. It was a low-key holiday, no extra people, no traveling, just me and my dad watching ridiculous movies, like “A Beverley Hillbillies Thanksgiving”, while my mom cooked.
Wendell, North Carolina is particularly beautiful in late November. A friend from Canada who came to visit me there once said it was like an extra week of October for her. There are sunsets to die for and everything one could desire in the way of leaves. I miss it so much that, true to the cliche, it becomes a physical ache sometimes.
(Downtown Wendell. It’s a small place so we only have the one gazebo.)
“If I’m confused, or upset, or angry, if I can go out and look at the stars I’ll almost always get back a sense of proportion. It’s not that they make me feel insignificant; it’s the very opposite; they make me feel that everything matters, be it ever so small, and that there’s meaning to life even when it seems most meaningless.”
from A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L’Engle
The Christmas I was sixteen I wrote a letter to Madeleine L’Engle.
Like most people, I encountered L’Engle’s writing first in A Wrinkle In Time and its sequels as a child, but I went on to read almost her entire bibliography of more than fifty books my junior year of high school.
My favorite was A Ring of Endless Light. I considered it the most important book I had ever read; the intensity of my feelings about it defied articulation. I considered it almost another Gospel. It conveyed the essentials of everything I believed to be true about life, death, God, and the soul with beautiful imagery and simple, transparent language. Madeleine L’Engle was the writer I most aspired to emulate, and her characters were the people I most wanted to be like. The first book I published I intended to dedicate to her.
Since the time of my last post, I have, once again, moved to a new apartment.
This brings me up to a total of seven addresses where I have resided since March of last year. And while I’m happy to report that this was my best move by far (I’m sharing a renovated rowhouse in the city! I had a real flesh and blood friend to help me haul my stuff!), I learned something kind of shocking about myself this month. Namely, that I am capable of feeling homesick.
Seriously?! my brain demands of me, outraged by its own short term memory. How can you be homesick for a place where you were miserable and lots of bad things happened to you and also, as a teenager, your metric for personal success hinged on whether or not you were still “stuck” there as an adult?
I agree, brain. It’s very confusing. I mean, I grew up in Raleigh. It’s a city of a million people, yet it always comes as a kind of shock when people from out-of-state have heard of it. And it’s not as if anyone still lives there. My parents moved to Kentucky two years ago. My high school friends are all in places like Chicago, D.C., Boston, New York. My college friends are teaching abroad or finishing up Ph.D.s in different parts of the country. By contrast, this time last year, I was living down the street from my old high school. I’m not saying this made me a failure, but by the time I left, I felt like I really needed to get out of North Carolina, if only to prove to myself that I could.