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Anno 3 in Exilio (An Acute Bout of Homesickness)

Fri, Aug 03, 2001 07:56AM -0600

What do I miss, really? Some idealized version of Home, something that never existed, and can't possibly exist for quite some time. I do not daydream of Los Angeles--at least not too much. I do not pine for some sense of stability and peace in the City of Angels, living at home with my parents, and going about my everyday life there. And as much as I've remarked about my missing Berkeley and the times I had there, I cannot yet foresee myself returning to the Bay Area in the near future, setting up shop, and settling down. Not everyone who was there is still there after all, and I've got quite a few years before I can even ponder this sort of decision.

The future is murky. Despite my new-found attitude of trying to see the silver lining in every cloud, I feel that there are several more transformations I have to undergo before I can pretend everything is going to be all right. Perhaps that Sunday afternoon driving from O'Hare in a deluge can serve as a constructive metaphor. I have to forge on even if I can't see what's in front of me. Driving through the heart of the storm made me feel alive, knowing that instant death lay all around. But that can't be the end-all-be-all of life, living on the razor-thin edge of transient existence. There's got to be a place where I can just pull up my feet and watch the fire burn in the hearth while the blizzard howls outside, and maybe, just maybe, I can listen to my beloved hum a melody as I hold her in my arms. But that last may be a little too much. I would just settle for the footstool and the warm hearth at this point. (And maybe a book to read and a pipe to smoke, but those are mere trifles. OK, so it's August right now, but I'm sitting directly under the A/C duct, and it makes me think of winter. Very bizarre, I know.)

Despite my skepticism of Freud, I irrationally hold on to the idea that traumas experienced in childhood can explain a lot of adult behavior, even when at the time you couldn't possibly comprehend what was going on. Maybe they left some sort of indelible mark on my soul. Perhaps it etched my fear of the dark and my fear of silences into my heart. But perhaps it awakened in me the idea, the longing, that Home was supposed to be everyone you loved being together. Learning by negative example, I suppose.

I've unfortunately spent too many years away from people I care about. True, a lot of it isn't just because of my own choices--my friends and family have had to make their own distant sojourns. But I think I'm getting too used to it, and despite my sometimes vociferous rantings to the contrary, I really do believe there are some things you shouldn't get used to.

Yes, all of a sudden I miss my family. I've had snatches of conversations with them, from thousands of miles distant, but it's a pale shadow of what I wish I had. I feel a little sad that my mom and my dad will have to return to their routine of missing each other because of their different work schedules. For the most part they each spend their time alone in an empty house, now that my brother's knee is healed up enough so he can head back to Davis on Saturday. And lately I worry that I'm not blazing the right path for my sister, that I've led her down some philosophical dead-end track into an infested jungle.

I wrote it before, and I guess it's still true, that the idea of family is central to my conception of Home. But I know I can't live in the past. I've got to plan for my future, and so that's where the Home that I dream of has to be, as far off and as unimaginable as it may be. I suppose that in the mean time, there's work to be done in the garden. I suppose that's how it works, that's what that old story means. My responsibility is the garden. Everything else is up to Chance, Fate, the Way, or God, depending on what you believe in (but it's really all the same thing).

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