Clusters of Intensely Coloured Years

I have been wondering if homesickness is nostalgia in another guise.

When I miss home, home as the place in which I was born, the place which holds most of my family and friends, most of my touchstones and so many of my memories, quite often I miss specific, long-gone scenes and moments. I miss Sunday morning breakfasts when I lived at home with my parents when my Dad would sing really loudly and there’d be a dog on a doormat somewhere; I miss getting ready with the girls and going out to a bar Sydney had momentarily deemed cool, that breathtaking anticipation that hums in the background of a night out; I miss cousin-filled Christmasses, Nan dropping in for a cup of tea, early evening swims, summer days at Macmasters Beach.

It wasn’t until recently that I realised most of the things I miss, most of the things I feel homesick for, are things I cannot have anymore anyway. If I were to move back home it would not mean reclaiming all of those precise moments I associate with Australia, all of those precise moments that have, by their very nature, simply been outgrown. I am homesick then, I suppose, for a time and if that isn’t nostalgia, what is? Or are homesickness and nostalgia, for those living so far away, like those friends who are always together, who wear similar clothes and talk with the same inflections and intonations and whose names you always mix up? Yes, that, I think.

Of course, this is not a feeling I find myself in and unable to clamber out of. Rather, both nostalgia and homesickness are a constant, some days felt more keenly than others, a studied, acknowledged constant. Without them, I would feel remiss, without them I would forget to stop and absorb it all. Although, as I grow older and I watch my children take their first steps in a world I feel I only really just met myself, nostalgia has begun to reassert herself over homesickness. Nostalgia paints blocks of time with her golden brush and the moment they end, I feel their loss.

Now that we have moved and are in the process of settling in and making a new home (my toddler’s favourite expression right now, ‘new home Mummy, new home!’) I find myself missing moments from our apartment in the city. But they really are moments, moments that themselves would have ended with time, regardless of whether we had moved. Now that she searches for ‘nails’ in the garden, I recall walking with both kids on a bright, crisp morning with die Lüdde pointing out every single Smart Car and Mini Cooper within a 5km radius. I miss the daily walks to the ice-cream bar last summer.

Perhaps miss is the wrong word. I feel we have left them behind these places and these times, that they have joined other bygone days of an ever forward-marching life. I feel the closing of a time I can now only watch through a window, a golden window, but one that prohibits my hand from reaching in and rearranging a scene or moving a figure.

That part of my life has been lived, that is the sweet loss I feel. This living of eras, of short clusters of intensely coloured years, is something I have noticed occurring since my daughter was born. The newborn haze, the only-child days, the kids-in-the-bath-together years, the first family home years – these eras, these clusters that arrive without warning and leave just as quietly, they are among the most precious things I have.

If only I could keep them; they leave all too soon.

10 Replies to “Clusters of Intensely Coloured Years”

  1. Very true, I often feel that way about moments that I suddenly remember, for instance about Bordesholm. But the times have gone, my parents have passed and there would be very little now for me that still has any meaning. So, I have no reason to come and visit anymore. Everything that gave that area between Neumuenster and Kiel meaning has basically gone…

    1. I grew up in Muehbrook, next to Bordesholm, on the lake and in the forest and went to school in the Dorfschule and Bordesholm Mittelschule …. sometimes intense nostalgia and … but sitting on the beach (in my retirement) most days here in Simon’s Town on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa, I still feel blessed … my brother send Photos from Muehbrook … Liz is right, memories, golden memories ….
      thank you, Liz, for these words

      1. Ute Antje, I have set many a time in Mühbrook by the lake, and swimming there in the midst of summer was one of these pastimes that trigger this sense of nostalgic loss for me.
        Here I am in Brisbane, close to the Gold and Sunshine Coasts as well as rock pools and water fun parks and I have those S-H lakes on my mind. I then try hard not to think about it because holding on to the past in this sense is pointless somehow.
        Also, in S-H we could freely cross paddocks. Here, you don’t step on private farmland…

  2. Perfectly put, Liv! Thanks for helping me sort out my own homesickness-nostalgia bundle.
    I feel “homesick” for my life in Ireland even though I am intensely happy every single day that I moved to the Pfalz with the good weather, the mountains and forests and vineyards and cute Fachwerkhäuser and busy markets to buy my fruit and veg and ice cream parlors and cycling everywhere and….but it’s nostalgia I feel for the era of my life that has ended. The era of kids growing up, family life, time for art and environmental community activities, days of caring and catering for the kids, taxi services to choir, football, piano classes….no I don’t miss those, but I miss the atmosphere of happy family which is a truly rose tinted glasses-nostalgia because one tends to forget all those moments that were far from it, that were hectic schedule, bossing around kiddies, arguing with partner, shopping, cleaning madcap everyday life moments which only grow this happy patina in hindsight..

  3. Beautiful. I so enjoy your words! I feel the same way now that I’ve returned to the US from living in Germany.

  4. I like the metaphor of color clusters. That really is well said and nicely expressed. and that one longs for scenes of living that one cannot bring back. I feel this quite strongly as we tried to move back to my hometown in Germany only for me to discover that I have changed so much that I cannot simply go back. The past is past and the future is still there to be lived. Moving back into the past now almost feels like I am shutting out the future and forget to live the present.

  5. OMG yes!! This is so very true!! Ich habe gerade neulich gesagt, dass mir auffällt, dass ich eher Situationen und Erinnerungen vermisse und nicht meine Stadt, meine alte Heimat, meinen Job, meine alte Schule usw.
    Keep collecting memories and paint them golden!
    Lots of love and sunshine from Austinmer
    Swantje

  6. You’ve nailed it again, and it’s rather put my mind to rest about how I am currently feeling about England, thank you. Excellent that die L has the hang of “new home”. We are still living in “the other America”, as opposed to the first house we stayed in when we got here, which we’ll be moving back to again shortly… which was “America”. Mostly all A can talk about though is going back to Germany.

  7. It’s funny I finally read this today. As I waited in the car for my husband, “Black Velvet Band” began playing. A dear friend from Australia, who died in the past year, used to sing this song in his rich bass voice, and I was overcome with this loss. It didn’t matter that we hadn’t seen him in twenty years (we are in the U.S.) — he was such an integral part of our college years, a good friend to us both, making music together, part of our wedding, still in contact — we still felt the loss deeply. Sometimes homesickness or nostalgia is for a person, someone, as you say, you can’t get back again.

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