I’m finally reading Bernhard Schlink’s novel The Reader. I know, I know, where was I 10 years ago?! Anyway, as we’re on a bit of a book theme this week I thought it was a good opportunity to discuss a paragraph that really struck me (obviously there were lots of paragraphs in this book that struck me but this one pays particular reference to the idea of ‘home’ and growing up).
‘I felt as if we were sitting all together for the last time around the round table under the five-armed, five-candled brass chandelier, as if we were eating our last meal off the old plates with the green vine-leaf border, as if we would never talk to each other as a family again. I felt as if I were saying goodbye. I was still there and already gone. I was homesick for my mother and father and my brother and sisters, and I longed to be with the woman.
... I was happy. And at the same time I felt I’d just said my final goodbyes.’
For me, the line ‘I was still there and already gone’ is so eloquent and poignant; the bittersweetness of changing relationships, growing up, moving on (or out). And while the character isn’t moving anywhere literally, he is beginning to grow beyond his childhood.
My most recent memory of a similar feeling was when my first two children were four and two-years-old. I went to visit one of my oldest friends in New York for 10 days. All on my own! It was fabulous; a time spent with friends who are like family and a very special godson.
Yet the lead-up was awful. I knew rationally the children would be fine; they had their father, my mother and my mother-in-law. But I didn’t want to leave them behind.
The week before I left felt like a week of goodbyes. I was most definitely ‘still there and already gone’. I was missing the children while we were still altogether. I was homesick for people who were in the same house as me. But mentally I was already on the other side of the world without them.
There are so many circumstances in our lives when we can be physically present but mentally absent; or why we may miss the very person we are holding hands with.
I’d love to hear about more.