11/04/2008

homesick











Photo borrowed from Amber's flickr site http://www.flickr.com/photos/ambery/

So I know I need to blog again, but I've been struggling over what to write, especially because this has been a lonely month. I keep resisting the temptation to put "Jenny is lonely" for my facebook status update. I mean, how pathetic is that? But if I'm to revisit this blog, I might as well lay all my cards on the table at the outset.

October was unusual, because in a short span of time I was able to travel back to New York with my two kids and hold my godson Ike as he was baptized, visit with my mentor from seminary, and stay with my children's great-grandfather, Warren. Because we lived in New York for three years and because Anna was born there, It an was emotionally intense time.

I can't describe what it was like to hold Amber's son Ike in my arms, to gaze on the Hudson from Warren's windows, to watch the train rumble in from the City, and to drive through the autumn leaves to visit my seminary mentor with Amber. I hate to say it, but I was even kind of pleased when she got lost on the way home, except for that it was my fault, our gas tank was nearly empty and I was a little worried she wasn't going to like me anymore. Still, in my hearts of hearts, I wished we could stay lost as long as possible, because as soon as we got back to Warren's apartment, we'd have to say goodbye.

Every experience in New York was tinged with sadness. Seven years ago, from that same window overlooking the Hudson, I watched the billowing smoke rise from the Twin Towers and realized that I could never really feel safe again. In that same apartment with the gorgeous view, we began to lose John's spunky grandmother Sally as Alzheimer's took hold. All this to say, I don't want to go back and relive it all, and yet I can't help but ache for the experiences that I will never have again: Sally and Warren holding Anna the morning she was born--four generations piled into that hospital room in White Plains, or later, when Anna was a newborn and I was trying to figure out how to be a mom, the reassuring presence of Amber folding her laundry beside me, so casual, as if the mundane would always be available for us to share.


After I got back to Kona, six house guests arrived: more close friends from seminary Fr. John and Jenny Hainsworth, their three kids and our friend Heather. It is unfortunate Fr. John and Jenny stole our names and then escaped over the Canadian border, and also that they also serve an Orthodox parish on an island, but we have chosen to forgive them. My husband and Fr. John were ordained two days apart. My husband stood up with Fr. John as a deacon, and issued a most tenuous "Axios?" after Fr. Paul poked his head out of the royal doors and cued him, "Axios!"


Anyway, while they were here it was like a continual feast. We had wonderful meals, all ten of us, consumed copious amounts of coffee, and assembled at the fire pit every night after the kids were tucked in to talk story and drink wine. One night we saw a series of shooting stars, although I saw more than the others and called them bimbos, which they all seemed to appreciate.

Of course when they were here, everything seemed oddly hilarious. I'm still chuckling over their final trademark departure when Fr. John said, "Goodbye beautiful house, of course it is only beautiful because of the people who live in it," while Jenny barfed into an imaginary barf bag.

All these October encounters caused this odd emotional response in me. I hope somebody else has experienced this, because maybe they can help me understand it a little. Basically, I long for every place I have lived, every person I have come to love in each place, all at the same time. Does this happen to everyone who moves a lot? Is this some kind of scattered personality disorder?

Tonight, watching Barack Obama's acceptance speech in Grant Park, I missed Hyde Park, the neighborhood where we both lived for all those years. I wish I could have heard all the honking horns as he left his home for the park, I wish I could have watched history unfold there as all of my old neighbors undoubtedly did. Just to express the depth of my wistfulness, I actually felt a little sad for Barack that he will have to leave that unique neighborhood to take up residence at the White House. I say this because I know what it is like to leave, and how you can never have it back, no matter where you live.

I really miss living in a building from 1894, the high ceilings, the yard, the neighbors, especially Joan and Marji, Ser and Dina. I miss the seasons: the crunch of leaves under my feet, waking in the middle of the night to glimpse the first snow of the season. I even missed the steamy summers, because they helped me thaw out from the winters. And of course, I missed a lot of opportunities I didn't seize, such as a chance to trick-or-treat with Obama's family last Halloween.

Hawaii has been better than I could have hoped for in almost every way. I love the community we serve. I love walking on our windy mountain road, smelling the coffee trees and the gauva, waking to the sound of roosters and cattle and birdsong. But all this beauty doesn't make me miss people less. I think, perhaps, the openness required to experience it all only intensifies the ache, and reminds me how far I have to go to make a home here.

Perhaps, on some level, I am grieving. Almost one year into this adventure, I am finally counting the cost, looking up at the lopsided moon (we are so close to the equator here that we don't see a crescent, but a smile) and realizing how far away I am from all that I have known and from many of the people I love most.

In a new place--even a year into it--there is always the sense that you have to prove yourself. People don't know your history yet, so they watch and wait. I'm sure this is especially the case for clergy families. One of the biggest difficulties for me, silly as it sounds, is that I make a lot of jokes that people don't get--they don't even seem to realize that I'm trying to be funny. I really miss the fluidity of old friends who are always ready to receive a joke.

This ache seems to leave me with a few options: I can update my facebook status 12 times a day and check my email at least twice that, or perhaps I can begin to be present in a deeper way to the people right around me, to start to know them and to let them know me.

Anyway, the roosters are crowing, a good clue that I've been up too late already. Tomorrow my new friend Viviana will be here to help me weed. She tells me that weeding is therapeutic, that only the Japanese on this island get it right. Maybe all that weeding will help me as I struggle to put down my own roots, right here, in this volcanic soil.

10 comments:

Dove Knits said...

I feel this exact same way, especially in October. I moved alot, too, I guess, though not as much as you, but everywhere I've lived -- Moscow, Atlanta, Gambier, Chicago, and now Cleveland -- fall has been a constant. (Though, of course, in Atlanta, it was warmer and came a bit later!) It's like the phases of my life are beads on a string, and October is the string, and I can look down it right through the middle of everything I've ever lived through. And it makes me very happy, in a way, but also very sad, and, like you, I miss everything adn everyone all at once, and I miss myself as I was back then, too.

Anyway, this was a rambly and poorly written way to say that I understand.

dancebythelight said...

I can understand your feelings. I grew up moving around a lot. I have friends scattered across the U.S. There are times I wish I could gather them all up into one big reunion.

Jessica said...

Jenny,
I know exactly about that ache you feel. I attach myself very quickly to people and my surroundings and each time I've had to move somewhere new, it's left a void inside me that I can't fill with anything else. I've come to the conclusion that this is because we weren't created for endings. We were created for eternity. And when something ends our spirit just can't fully accept it. I rest in the fact that this state is only temporary, and one day soon we won't have any more endings.

Meadowlark Days said...

I have to admit that after several moves it's easy to even stop trying to make connections in the new places. It's hard. But I like Jessica's thoughts on it. May God bring you friends.

Ser said...

Yes, Jessica says it. We long for everyone we have ever loved to surround us.

Also, for me, mourning a time and place is about realizing my mortality. I will never go back there, to those circumstances exactly. My children will never go back to being the way they were when we were there.

I think this post is beautiful and I can relate so much. I'm a half a year ahead of you in the process and I can say that is does get better.

I miss you! And Hyde Park!

Julia said...

I like this post a lot Jenny. Life is so rich and you definitely do it justice here in your description, which is hard to do. I've really settled into our life here and already feel this same sadness knowing that the time is coming when we'll move and everything will change again. Speaking of seminary mentors, I think Dr. R once said to me that the older we get the more we have to embrace the fact that we live in a tent and no situation is permanent. It's good advice, but hard, of course.

marji said...

Jenny, Ser ...
Can I tell you it wasn't the same here without you? Your presence is what brought so many of us together. On our own, we're not as social, not as spontaneous, not as much. Coincidentally, as I parked the car in the garage today, I thought, "this all would have been so different if Jenny and Ser were still here." It made me recall grilling hot dogs in one of those power outages. You are missed; share yourselves where you are ... as a beneficiary I can say there are souls waiting for you, joy to be shared.
love from here,
marji

Anonymous said...

Always missing you... Always feeling that ache for the beauty of the past to be present with me in the beauty of the present...especially in October.
Love you - Rachel

paige maddex said...

Thank you for this beautiful post. You reminded me to cherish the fall leaves - as well as those around me.

We so enjoyed spending time with Fr. John. It sounds like there are so many wonderful aspects of your new life in Hawaii - I for one am particularly envious of the just picked avocados!

Take care and have a blessed Advent

Jenny said...

Thank you all for your comments! I love the idea that we ache this way because we were not created for goodbyes. A beautiful thought to contemplate. And it does comfort me to hear from you all, as I do sometimes feel very far away.