The fascination of transition has begun, and it always starts in the same way when I travel internationally. It’s the eye for things that are different. Some drastic, others subtle. It always takes a day or two to remember to go to the left side of the car or ask for crisps or biscuits in my food order. I am, however, smart enough not to order an Irish Car Bomb or a Black & Tan from intuition and not failed experience.
I love eavesdropping on the three French women sitting on the train in the row next to me, even though I have no idea what they are saying. Instead my mind considers how vastly different their perception of the world is than mine. They possess a language that has rhythm and timbre that sounds fetching. Much like Celina yesterday at her shop, le chocolat de Fred. Though she spoke fluent English, it was with the winsome accent of her heritage. The sound of her voice was enough to make me want to stand in the queue and order another savory crepe to hear her say, Oui. Merci.
These initial observations of cultural variance are fun to account for, but they can become the same things that drive a person crazy. My friends who have lived in a multinational context have told me after a while, the novelty wears off, and the yearning to return to a familiar life takes over. One guy once told me he couldn’t wait to get back to the States to once again sink his teeth into a hamburger and a Snickers bar. Regardless of the reasons why, these two things connected him to a sense of place. They reminded him of home. His idea of belonging.
Familiarity fosters comfort. It’s another reason why loss is devastating. Not only is the person gone, but so is the lifestyle and the constancy that was attached to them. That good feeling isn’t coming back.
This longing for home isn’t optional. It’s compulsory. Homesickness is nothing to feel guilty about. But it is something that might need to be set aside for a season.
I remember as a young child getting homesick at church camp. I recall wanting to go home after day one. I was pretty young and it was only for a week, but everything was so new and unexpected to that little boy. I wanted something familiar right away. I cried in the bathroom so I wouldn’t be seen. I wasn’t old enough to have perspective that things would settle down. But I was old enough to feel shame.
In the same heart as that little boy is the yearning to be home. Not to the empty house I will walk back into on March 19. But back to a dwelling place, to a familiar shelter furnished in the environment of companionship.
Grief is homesickness.