Homesick is an appropriate word. To me it feels like nausea, or labor contractions. You can sense the feeling approaching from a ways away, and yet it strikes fresh each time.
I’ve had some major bouts with homesickness in my life. Most spectacularly, I freaked out during my first-ever sleepover, age 6 or so, and had to get picked up early. My parents were having a dinner party that night (I’m guessing Lindsey was also with a friend and they were celebrating a kid-free home) and I vividly remember the embarrassment of walking through the party and up to my own bed. I cried all night the first night of sleep away camp (my tent-mates must have loved that) and the same at boarding school. I remember longing for home a good amount of my (otherwise amazing) year abroad in Oxford. I’ve come to see homesickness as a tough, inevitable and normal part of any new experience.
So this year I was all prepared to experience homesickness — mine or Hannah’s or Margaret’s (for some reason, I didn’t expect it from Terence). And the strange thing was that it didn’t come. From time to time, usually when being asked to walk a long distance under the hot sun, the girls do recite lists of “ways Delaware is better than Jerusalem,” and we talk about people we miss back home. But these conversations don’t usually hold the emotional pang of true homesickness. The girls are quite easily pacified with promises for future experiences and reunions with friends.
But for some reason tonight was different. I have no clue why it took until October 15 for homesickness to strike. The girls were babbling at dinner: Hannah misses Grace B, Margaret longs for Eliza. As I tried to tune them out I started thinking about all the people I miss (you know who you are) and realized: good God, I really do miss them. And I miss home. Social, intellectual and cultural newness and challenges are wonderful, of course, but so is sweet familiarity. And that opened the gates to all kinds of other homesickness and longing: for a crisp New England fall, for food that isn’t falafel, for a bathtub to soak in, for my car to drive, for a big supply of physical books, and on and on.The waves kept crashing over me.
In the name of emotional honesty I knew I needed to say something to the kids, but it had been a long day. So I kept it simple: “you know, you can feel two things at the same time. Really, really happy to be living here and having these new experiences, and really, really sad to not be at home.” Which is the truth.