“Homesick?” The random citizen asks when I mention my migratory path from California.

I’ve come to believe that such expressed words are antonymous actually to their purpose and meaning.

I’ve come to believe homesick is one of those words, if taken apart.

Homesick is self-induced or is it self-deluded? In the end it’s not a sickness at all.

Sure, I recall the sick feel to wake on hung-over weekend mornings before 8:00AM when the open windows of an apartment filled with Mexican football fans across from my townhouse exploded in “goooooooaaaaaaaalllllll“. I felt sick all right and when I see Mexico play an international match, I do feel some sickness revisit. But Mexico’s not my home.

Yeah, sure when I see on television those sleepy headed, achy back people rising out of sleeping bags on a Pasadena sidewalk New Year’s morning, I feel sick but not for me, for them. I reminisce of how dad and I would walk up the street to Colorado Boulevard, step ladder in hand. A ladder was the perfect perch to watch the Rose Parade above those poor sick bastards.

Admittedly I’ve tried “Pasadena” as an answer before I realized it’s misleading. We lived there maybe thirty months. I watched Beatle cartoons and Star Trek, played fictitious driveway basketball games – Warriors Lakers, Chick Hearn on the call as Rick Barry, Nate Thurmond and I beat West, Baylor and Goodrich.

There, I do feel sick but only because I went to a school where I was bullied; had not a blade of grass; that, I was assaulted by black spray paint can weilding, beret wearing black teenagers; where I had no friends and the Lakers always beat the Warriors in reality.

I feel sick when I imagine what a park spot on our front lawn goes for New Year’s morning this century. It was $5.00 back in 1967 or ‘68. It’ll make you sick.

I suppose these aren’t the sicknesses – loss of sleep, loss of sitting in the front row, loss of my favorite polo shirt, loss of profiteering, loss of a game, the loss of my parents – when one refers to “homesick”.

It may be just as well I can’t conjure some flowery regression of home, even if my father had his nearly three year love/hate romance with homeownership (thanks to “the G.I. Bill”). We really never had a home. They were all temporary quarters.

“Where you from?” How can they always tell I’m not from here? (I never looked like anyone anywhere I’ve been). But then again, lighten up. It may just be a courtesy; nervous chatter. The simplest conversation yet I always panic.

What am I going to say? No one likes the truth unless it’s a three, maybe four word sentence, especially responding to a simple courtesy. (Should I try “Mars”?) They really won’t hear you anyway. It’s just follow up to asking your name, which they also won’t recall. Where you from is the next line of the social script.

But what if they’re sincere, I could tell the true, yet abridged version, just the Cliff Notes, as twisted as it is to follow. Sure, their eyes may glaze over. The truth generally isn’t sexy. It’s ugly. If you keep it short, you may be able to move on to flip it to where I am going.

I could cut to the chase and ask, “Where do you want me to start?” Yet that approach will seem verbose, if not evasive. It’s fresh; an unnecessarily flippant answer using a question for a question. It’s unwelcome, no way to make friends. But this inducive approach seems a possibility; cleaner. Again, start with where you’re going, work backwards.

It has never been easy. I was born one place. Three countries later, I went to kindergarten in two places (four different schools though). I lived two years here; three years there; a year in another. It’s absurd.

We were in Monterey, California – half a world away from my birthplace when my father retired from the army. I know nothing of either town.

Now I realize my father had the same predicament. He was born in Welland, Ontario, Canada but a week later was in Utica; then, a few years later Nazareth, Bethlehem – Pennsylvania, upstate New York, back to Pennsylvania but he always spoke of Philadelphia as “home”.

It’s obvious the army was his home and indeed it made him sick over twenty-two years but he didn’t miss it. It gave him a gift for nervous chatter with starngers. He could walk up to anyone and start a conversation, even if it wasn’t exactly about the truth. Maybe I should just pick one town, as he did and roll with it?

I could loosely lie. But then if this person becomes more than an acquaintance, it could all embarrassingly unravel. Inexplicable; you’re a phony. I would feel sick but over the lack of a home. The lie.

Hey! This could be my sickness and it has nothing to do with home. More so, it has everything to do about the lack of home that makes me sick.

“Homesick?” “No, random citizen. “I’m sick I never had one. How about you?”

5 thoughts on “Homesickness

  1. The first half of my family must have felt like that, adrift, the brothers #1 – 5. The rest of us (#6-9) lived in Atascadero and it was and always will be “home”. I like to subscribe to the notion that “home is where the heart is”, and that is certainly with our precious children and spouse. So grateful for that!

    • if I subscribe to a master plan in my life, it was to first have my own children and, second, more direct to the subject matter, allow my children to root; grow with friends and community from kindergrten to high school graduation. Ten years in, I’m holding steady, as much as Europe begs me to relocate. The circle will be broken and it is good.

  2. Great piece, Max. Made me homesick for Pasadena,not that I ever lived there. I did live in Wilmington Mass. Once a truck full of fish flipped on the 93. All the cars were stuck slipping and sliding. All but a VW bug, which plowed on through like driving through a few tons of fish was nothing. I think of that a couple times a year. Why I don’t know.

    I also accidentally caught a star nosed mole in a bucket in the Ipswich river. Let it go. Little environmentalist, me.

    Ya gotta admit, tho’, you had some great times in LA.


    • Or was it simply a great Time?

      My wife has tried to share this TV show from her youth. It was called the WOnder Years and it’s about that time.

      I watched one. Unlike those other retro shows – Happy Days (I wasn’t alive), That 70s Show (my friends swear its us but they’re all too pretty, dressed well and smart), I found the one or two episodes of the Wonder Years to be close to spot on.

      Great times are created during great Times

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