“The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country I am homesick for the other.”
– Grandfather’s Journey, Written and Illustrated by Allen Say
To me, the children’s book Grandfather’s Journey is simply haunting.
It’s about longing for two places at once and the feelings one gets having lived in two countries. I oftentimes feel this way while full time RVing…
In a nutshell, Grandfather’s Journey is a story of a Japanese man who is fascinated by California and moves there for a long time and then is homesick for his family, friends and the hills of his childhood and moves back to Japan.
However, as time goes by and he is homesick for California.
His heart, it seems is in two places as he loves them both…
My “Nono” (grandfather in Italian) had no such longing for two places. He was solid in his love for his small village of Sagamore in Cape Cod Massachusetts. He had no desire to travel to Italy, the country of his parents. It was family and friends that made up the fabric of his life.
As for friends, Nono told me that if you were lucky enough, you may have one or two true friends in your life but it was unlikely that you would ever have more true friends than fingers on one hand…
I believed this wholeheartedly for my entire young adult life and then I moved away from home for several years, made two true friends in college (Karen) and one in graduate school (Annette) and then I settled in Chicago.
Amidst the heartbreak that marked my stay in Chicago, it was there that I met the kind of true friends that great writers immortalize in songs and stories. I met friends that stood by me in days of sadness and celebrated any successes and joys. I met friends who I knew that I could (and still can) call in the middle of the night and friends that would drive six hours to see me for two if I happened to be in a neighboring city.
I met friends that would come to my aid if I called, when I called, no matter where I was or more importantly no matter where they were in place or situation…it even happened when we were RVing full time in Wisconsin.
And on a moments notice on a sleepy Sunday morning, they were there for us. Thanks Missy and Tom!
Chicago, and its surrounding area, is a bittersweet place for me to return to and yet when I am thinking of the Midwest, of my friends, their families, the familiar landmarks, way of life, I do long for the chance to go there.
Unlike Grandfather’s Journey, it is not “the mountains and rivers” that draw me back. It is the bonds of true friendship, our shared memories, the promise of more, and the feeling I get when I am around a true kindred spirit.
So when we decided to do this full time RVing trip, my priority was to make sure we hit all the spots in the Midwest where my friends had settled so that we could reconnect and so my children and husband could meet them again.
It is such a joy for me to see my boys sharing their love of all things Harry Potter with Karen; begging Uncle Andy for a firehouse story, hugging Karen’s mom Dalia or listening to Karen’s sister Ronna and husband David laughing with them over Dalia’s birthday lunch.
Watching our boys talk with my friend Mike, playing in the lake with Dyllan and Zoe and calling my friends Mellissa, Jill and me by our old “O” nicknames (Missy O!, JillyO!, and JennyO!) was truly heartwarming.
As we drove over the Mississippi for the final time, I was feeling deeply sad, Alex gently reminded me that I need to learn to use Skype and use it every week so I can see my Midwest friends more. It was a push into the virtual world of the 21st century by my 10 year old.
I have since made many true friends in my career and upon my return to the Cape and no longer believe that the “five finger rule” applies to my life but can imagine that it may in others. For my part, I take immense comfort in having such good friends at home and in faraway places. I always have a place to go!
And that is that’s one of the reasons why we went RVing full time and chose this route of travel, because I missed my dear Midwest friends! And like Grandfather’s Journey, the funny thing is that when you are with people that you care deeply about, you feel as if you are home.
But don’t worry Mom, we are coming back….