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.