Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Who Says You Can Go Home?

The summer before 8th grade, I went on a trip to Ireland, England, and Scotland with my family. I spent my 13th birthday in Ireland and England, pretty much the coolest birthday ever for someone who hadn’t yet been out of the United States. Unfortunately it was the first birthday that I can consciously remember not wanting to get older. I had never thought very much about the passing of every year and how I aged with each of these passing’s. But turning 13 meant I was going into 8th grade, which was awesome, but it was also the last year before high school, which was also my brother’s last year before graduating and going to college, which meant that soon enough I would be graduating and leaving my home. The comfortable town limits of Eldersburg have been my home since I was born and for the first time, coming home was not something I was interested in; leaving Ireland and England for Eldersburg meant starting school and starting another school year meant growing up and getting closer to the scary real world. This was the first time I didn’t want to come home.

The second time was just two years later: the August before my sophomore year of high school was when my parents and I took my brother, Matthew, to Nashville for college. The 12 hour car ride home was absolutely brutal, all I did was pretend to be sleeping while I sobbed silently into the pillow I’d brought along for the ride so my parents wouldn’t ask me if I wanted to talk about it. I didn’t want to go home because it was empty now. Micah and Matthew had now both left me to move on to their real lives.

The third time was one year later: my grandfather had passed away during the first week of my junior year of high school. I went to Florida with my mom and brothers for the funeral and to spend time with my mom’s six siblings and their mother, help her clean up the house after the various guests were finished passing through. My grandfather was, and is, one of my favorite people in the world. Going home meant that I had to accept that he was gone. I would have rather stayed in Florida where I could eat at his favorite Italian restaurant and sneak Werther’s Originals candies out of our secret dish on the bookshelf. Going home wasn’t a place where I could feel him so why would I want to be there?

The fourth and final time was when my brother left for the Peace Corps. And even though it happened a year and a half ago, it’s still too recent to talk about. What I can say is that I never wanted to run away from home more in my life, and luckily Loyola was far enough away that I didn’t have to think about my truly empty home, a home that was missing my favorite person.

I’ve never been in the position where I had to leave home or even where the feeling of really wanting to run away lasted more than a few days so I cannot even imagine going through what the people in Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak! were feeling when their homes were taken away from them literally and metaphorically. I found this to be a very common theme that wound itself through out all of the short stories. It’s such a sad thing when the place you call home, a place that was at one point filled with family, love, friendship, and safety is taken from you.

The letters of “Children of the Sea” captured a couple who were taken from each other and from their homes, neither barely understanding what might happen to them in their future. The female character cannot accept the sacrifices her father has made to keep her safe after her mother tells her, “it is something you can never forget, the sacrifice he has made” (24). She knows her father loves her but she still does not want to let go of the life she had when she was safe at home with her love, who now floats, doomed, on a falling-apart ship at sea.

Guy, Lili, and Little Guy appear to have a happy and humble life: they always find food to eat, a reason to be proud of their smart little boy, and sometimes even some extra oil so he can read a book in his own home. “A Wall of Rising Fire” finds Guy unhappy with his life and he admits to his wife that he doesn’t want to be remembered how he remembers his father, “ a man that I would never want to be” (75). Guy feels that he has become his father, a disappointment to his son and wife, so he dreams of finding a better life to build a home on his own plot of land by flying off in a hot air balloon. The night before he leaves his home on the hot air balloon and then plummets to his death, his wife pleads with him, “I just want to know that when you dream, me and the boy, we’re always in your dreams” (73). She soon finds out that they were not in his dreams but perhaps only because his dreams ended in Guy ending his own disappointing life.

All of the stories we have read have led the characters on journeys far and wide from their homes. Whether they were escaping a terrible life, leaving to find something more, or traveling because they were forced, a starting point was necessary for them (and the reader) to relate back to when things got crazy on the road. A home isn’t always the place you want to be, but it’s a place that holds a piece of you nowhere else will ever have, even if you’re unable to go back. But a home is something always present in a travel story: how do you know you’ve been somewhere or are going some place new if you don’t have a home to start from? A place in which to ground yourself?

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