Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When Home is... feeling like you’ve already left

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.


bet you can guess... said...

This is absolutely me - I often dread someone arriving to visit because of the gap that I will then feel in my life when they leave. Which is craziness, but sadly true! And on the actual day of departure - well, I'm useless.. in fact I sometimes miss them more when they're still around as once they've left I can pull myself together much better and get on.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I remember well when living overseas, my mother could barely look at us days before the end of our few visits back to Sydney. When I was working overtime to save enough money for my first trip to the other side of the world at the age of 22, I can also remember her remarking that I was 'training' her for the time I was away ... as it turned out, it was 9 years! She was right, I had already left and I knew with some sadness, my life would never be the same again.

Germaine Leece said...

I hate flights that leave at the end of the day for that reason exactly, 'bet you can guess' - I never enjoy the last day as it feels like we're just putting off saying goodbye. I really need to live more in the present!

And yes, as a mother now I can only imagine being 'trained' by my children for being left behind!How depressing...

Jane Nice said...

And what a wonderful 10 days it was...want to do it again?? Planning trips home is always exciting but at the pit of my stomach I know that the goodbye at the end is nauseating! I don't know what it is about airports in particular, but when you drive up to the departures deck is when it really sets in that you once again have to say goodbye. I have to learn to live more in the moment for those trips home, because as soon as I land I start thinking about how long it will be before we are back at the airport - so depressing!


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