Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Jonal entry 961 | Friday, March 10, 2006
A list member suggested we discuss homesickness and it seems an appropriate topic, as most list members are now outside Blacklick Valley and our discussions tend to gravitate to memories of home and our youths there. Considering the kind of child I was, it surprises me that I can't remember ever having any real homesickness. I suspect that that's because I never had to go anywhere that I hadn't been primed to think was a good move, and after I got there I had a positive feeling about being there. In other words, I never had to go through Basic Training in the military or move to a far-away campus and suffer culture shock.
My first long-term move from Redmill Road was at age 22. I was beyond the vulnerability of a freshman or green recruit. But I had been preparing for "the world" most of my earlier life. For example, on my first visit to New York City at age 14, driving there with my parents, an aunt and uncle and their daughter, I was hardly there an hour before I slipped away by myself to find the nearest subway station and take the train to Times Square. Earlier that year, with my eighth-grade classmates I had visited Washington D.C. on a bus tour and had also lit out, with a couple of the other boys, to see how much we could see between supper and lights out. As a child, I was always afraid, but because I knew I had to overcome my fears, I looked for ways to confront them, and I did.
When I did move to New Jersey at age 22, it was for a job that I could only have dreamed of at such a young age. And it was the first time in my life I was with a lot of other young people who thought much as I did about things, so it was a great adventure. Collingswood, N.J,, was a solid middle class suburb that reminded me at the time of a movie set, it was so neat and trim with large houses and big yards. I boarded in a house with a widow who was a member of the church I was planning to join; she had two sons about my age and quickly became something of a surrogate mother to me (later even hosting the rehearsal party when I got married and putting up my mother for that occasion).
From there I moved to Santa Barbara on California's South Coast, and that was an even more idyllic setting than Collingswood. I was strongly motivated to be successful in my career (campus ministry) so I worked hard and traveled a lot to become "known." My bride of a few months suffered serious homesickness, I believe, but at the time I was hardly sympathetic, not sharing her blue moods and, probably, some separation grief she most likely felt that I couldn’t understand. After four years there, we moved to Palo Alto and Stanford University, 400 miles north, as my ministry was taking off. I had finished my master's at UCLA, my first (and still only) commercially published book was out, Stanford offered me opportunities to teach college students in accredited seminars, and I was getting support and recognition from around the whole country. And by then I was 30 and had fathered my first child.
So I've never been truly homesick. The closest thing to it I can recall is a strong sense of deja vu, moments of flashing back to Blacklick Townshiphome, schooland Nanty Glo, with family and my old friends. I often felt those Valley friends and the times with them were a once-in-a-lifetime situation, and though I had made many new friends in New Jersey (where I finished my undergraduate college), they were in a different category. I had always collected my favorite popular music, and on my trips around California's campuses I played tapes of the songs we grew up with. And though my favorites were songs on the sad side ("Tragedy," "Mr. Blue," "True Love Ways") their emotional impact was more heartwarming than saddening. Often they would "take me back" to the record hops, the pool halls, the carnivals in town. Those memories were moments of "longing" to be back there again...a longing akin to a feeling C. S. Lewis writes about a lot as "sehnsucht," a German word with the same meaning, I think, as the Welsh word Sallie Covolo mentioned on the list on Thursday. Longing for another place, another time.
Sehnsucht might be worth another look next time.