I’m not homesick these days, but I know what it feels like. Wanting to make everything simpler, to settle into that room that was always yours to sleep in, the wish to hear those voices that are so familiar even after so long being away. Not just the laughter but also the arguments, the disagreements, and the chores: everything is precious to you.
I have a friend who is feeling homesick now. I hope she has a chance to go home and recharge her emotional batteries… we all need to do that sometimes. I hope I didn’t contribute to some of that emotional drain, but I have to wonder if something I said added to her strain. I hope not… and more important, I hope she gets a chance to get home and enjoy her family again soon. When you get back home, you can see where you came from, and you see how good life really is. For me, these days, even just remembering my folks in the kitchen helps me feel that way.
I haven’t been to my parents’ house since December 2001, and I don’t have a solid plan to go back there for a Christmas visit before December 2004, so for me it’s memory that has to give me my trips home.
I can see my parents’ kitchen, my father playing with the dog by holding a dog cookie up, dancing this weird skittish dance that tells the dog he is playing. The dog leaps up and misses the cookie, and then he starts to bark, a deep, powerful booming bark that seems to come from deep inside him. My mother, sitting at the kitchen table, says what she always says in a situation like this, in her strong French accent: “Oh, dam-MET, man! Why do you tease him like ‘dat?”
My baby sister, now all grown up and working in another province but back for the holidays, comes up the stairs in my imagination, and smiles this grin that tell us all that once again she didn’t sleep enough last night. But she looks happy, and goes right into the cupboard to find some cereal for breakfast.
My other sister and her husband ring the doorbell, and come in from the snowy cold of winter into a warm and welcoming home. They are a bustle, a new generation, a family of their own, all sound and excitement and so much of the right words at the right time, over tea with milk in the living room. That’s what my sisters are all about, the right word at the right time. I appreciate that about them, even if I myself am much more about the fumbled word at the wrong time, grasping at something that doesn’t fit inside a house like this. But I still miss them, and sometimes I really wish I could just be there for a couple of hours, just to drop in and be there.
I don’t know what it will be like when I do visit my parents’ house. Life without chopsticks. No kimchi in the fridge. They don’t even have a rice cooker! I will have to steam them some goguma (sweet potatoes) and get some kimchi from somewhere… and of course bring a few bottles of bok bun ja ju (wild raspberry wine). And maybe I’ll pick them up some nice chopsticks before I go, enough for everyone in the family (except of course the dog).
I think it will be good to see them, but I think I will be reminded of why I don’t not live there… that my real life is somewhere else, doing something else. But, I still can’t wait to see them again, and I miss them. I miss the look of the walls, the feel of their carpet on my feet, the sound of their voices in the evening and the smell of dad’s latest weird cooking project. I miss it all, not in an aching way but in a quiet, patient, content way… because I know that missing something means something good is waiting there for me when I come back to visit.