Monday, June 21, 2010
On Being Homewell
Every Sunday night I get a fuzzy view of my parents on my computer screen, mugs to mouth, sleepy hair and eyes and morning-time voices, “Is that my baby?” they sometimes say when I appear in a box on my dad’s laptop screen, occasionally with a mug of tea up to my mouth. In winter they sat in the sun room on the leather swivel chairs but now that it's nice out they usually sit on the porch while they talk to me. I can see a strip of brown wicker behind their necks and the yellow-green (so different from Taiwan’s blue-green!) of the background. Sometimes they are disfigured, discolored, pixilated and prickling with olive-green undertones like Leondardo da Vinci portraits. Sometimes they freeze with their mouths open as though they’re burping and I laugh and call Max to come look. In the winter they brought the computer to the window to show me the white lake, sky, ground, split with trunks and bare branches of trees.
This past Sunday I almost missed my date with them. I frantically signed on to Skype, felt such relief at seeing my dad’s name on the contact list and wasted no time calling him, fearing the name would leave and the chance to hear his voice, mom's voice. After connecting and disconnecting chords, enabling sound and internet sharing the video let us down. Catching just a glimpse of green and wicker chair and a lock of wavy red hair around an ear, I actually started to cry.
People here think of me as homesick because I talk to my parents every week. This always surprises me. I don’t feel homesick. I miss the comfort and friendship of my parents, miss witnessing the growing my brothers have been doing and wish that they were witnessing my recent unwinding. Despite distance and the weeks or months gone by without talking to my best friends I still feel connected and dependent on them, still take comfort in their loyalty and their intimate understandings of me. Sometimes when I get upset it is because I miss the feeling of my family's love and my friends’ love, or something goes wrong and I think about how much more right everything would feel if I could just be with so-and-so, but I don’t feel scared or inconsolable in Taiwan. I feel capable and present. It makes me happy to think of my homes, not sick. And while I’ve learned that I want to be closer to my parents and my brothers and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and neighbors, that I want to see them and touch them and witness their lives, I don’t feel lost without them, just a little less found. But then there I was crying after catching a glimpse of my brother Dusty’s long hair.
This past Sunday, for the first time, I considered the possibility that these observers of my life in Taiwan got it right, that I am a homesick person. All I know for sure is that whatever I am I am glad to be it.
Later I want to write about red bean treats, the runt of the classroom litter and the fact that now I meet with smells and sights and strangers as someone who has lived in Taiwan, with comfort and a degree of expectation and familiarity that startles me when I remember to consider it.
This is a place where I could make another home if I wanted to. But “wanting to” (or not) is the choice that forks roads and put a distance between myself and people I might have come to know here and ways I might have lived here. I’ve come to know Kiah, to know Max, and Sam, and myself so much better. I’ve made things, and stumbled upon or pushed through to new lookouts.
P.S. Cheers to the retirement of the “Sad Blog”--this one’s for you, Dad!