January 29, 2007


I experienced my first bout of homesickness when I was five years old. During the summer my church put on a week of activities for the kids called Gopher Gulch, where we panned for gold and captured train robbers and of course got the occasional Bible lesson. We were all looking forward to the big sleepover at the end of the week, which I now realize was carefully planned to give parents a chance at some semblance of a date night.

The night of the sleepover the floor of my church's Fellowship Hall was a veritatble sea of sleeping bags and kids rolling around in their pajamas. A suitably wholesome Disney movie had been selected for our bedtime viewing pleasure, and I giggled with my friends while we watched. We all brushed our teeth together in the bathroom sink. And then it was lights out.

Except I could not sleep. I laid in the dark and stared at the ceiling, feeling a heavy sadness in my chest I did not yet have the vocabulary to define. I also felt scared, and very very far from home. I started to sniffle.

Luckily one of the counselors heard me. She came over and touched my shoulder and asked me if I wanted to come outside. I crept to my feet and followed her out into the night where a few other counselors were sitting around on the church patio. One of the boys offered me my first S'more and asked me if I missed my parents. I nodded and the rest of the teens made sympathetic sounds. I started to feel less sad, helped by the chocolate and the thrill of hanging out with the big kids. Company and conversation to this day remains the no-fail remedy for pretty much whatever ails me.

Now that I'm all grown up I can handle sleepovers all right, but I do still get homesick. It happens when I travel, but the tricky part is that it hits me before I even set foot outside my front door. The last few days before a trip I descend into a blue funk whenever I think about being away from my apartment, my kitties, my friends. I always have at least one moment when I think about cancelling the vacation altogether. Before the trip I just took to Africa it was especially bad, as I anticipated all of the difficulties of travelling in countries that posessed little or no infrastructure. Momentum does finally take over when I do my night-before-flight rituals, packing my duffel bag and picking out reading material for the plane. And then I'm off the next morning in high spirits, with only one last moment of hesitation when I find the cats sitting on my luggage and giving me baleful looks like they know I'm about to abandon them.

Now skip to the end of the journey, after all of the new adventures and experiences, when it's wonderful to the point of cliche to come home again and crawl into my own bed. I even feel that same happiness after a long day of work when I open the gate and the kitties are sitting in the window looking for me. That's home to me: the place where I can make yummy things in my kitchen, where I can turn the music up loud and dance around like a dork, where I can type away on my computer or where I can just laze on the couch with a library book or an old issue of Vogue. Having lived by myself for over five years, home is definitely a sanctuary of solitude for me when I need it, a room of my own. On the flip side, I very much enjoy inviting people into my home, especially to share some of that aforementioned good company and conversation.

So far in my lifetime I have made my home in Orange County, Santa Cruz, Coventry, San Francisco, and now Berkeley. While I don't anticipate leaving the Bay Area any time in the near future, it's at least comforting to know my own essential ingredients for a peaceful home. Boiling it down to the very basics, wherever I can have kitties, music, and friends, there will my heart be also.

Posted by nightfall at January 29, 2007 08:22 AM