A Sort of Homecoming (revisited)

There comes oft a time when I find both Melpomene and Thalia have fled, and that into which I have poured the better part of my thoughts (for whatever past extended period of time) falls useless and lifeless into my folder of “unfinished” works, hoping one day to be revived, but knowing full well that it has already been replaced by a far more vibrant piece. Such was the case this last Sunday, and with any luck, that which lies spread before in all the potential splendor I envision it to be is a more deserving thought than the one my literary instinct slew only a moment ago. This being said, I apologize for whatever inconvenience this delay upon my part my have contrived.

In a not so distant post, which I chose to entitle “A Sort of Homecoming” I spoke about homesickness, but neglected to bring the cumbersome barge of my intellect safe into harbor by making clear my choice of title. “Homecoming” is hardly a good segue into thoughts pertaining to “homesickness,” and what I had in mind when I chose it was that, having now come away from home, the discovery (or re-discovery) of what she is has been “A Sort of Homecoming.” I now somewhat regret this choice of title, for I find it is more appropriate now.

Germany has, at last, become comfortable for me. I only realized this yesterday, when as I sat in the car waiting for Andrea to return from an errand, I found I had become familiar with my surroundings. When I first arrived, I protested that Germany was not so different from America. It took a few trips to the grocery store for me to begin to change my mind, and after several months I had the distinct impression that all was very strange indeed. The reason for these shifting impressions is that, at first, I was ignorant of what was truly normal for Germany, and what was only normal for the Naruhns. A certain number of changes can always be expected to come with a complete shift of environment. Not everyone cooks the same lasagna, for instance, but usually it can at least be identified as lasagna. Similarly, not everyone has the same house, but we still recognize it as a house. So as I said before, once I realized that Germans had houses, and trees, and a blue sky just like back home, I began to realize what they did not have. And yesterday, I realized that all these things that were at first so strange to me had become normal. The old German houses, which I had first accepted as things I had seen in picture books or as imitations back home, later struck me by their authenticity. I realized that when a Brothers Grimm picture book showed the little German cottages I was seeing, they were showing the normal cottages of a German countryside. That when Germans came to America and settled here, the houses they built were replicas of the ones they had left. Here before me were the true originals, not constructs of someone’s fancy the way an elven home in Detroit might, or as recollections of native land left behind. They were bona-fide. And then, slowly, this originality sunk in, until it had become familiar.

When I first learned to drive, I had a similar experience learning all the streets around my house. Although I had no memories of having ever moved before, connecting familiar locations with roads, and familiar roads with names, assembling this geographical puzzle in my mind till I had a clear map of my hometown, was for me a sort of homecoming. Something similar has happened here again in Germany. It makes me laugh to recall how disoriented I was when I first arrived. On my first day, Andrea drove me about a little, and made stops at two local grocery stores. Somehow I came to the belief that they were both a decent drive apart, from each other and from the house. We were in the car, after all. Then one day I discovered that Lidl was, in fact, closer to our house than my nearest neighbors back home, and Rewe not much further. The comparative sizes of Holzgerlingen and Aldorf came into focus. Their positions on a map, the approximate distance between them and Böblingen, and from Böblingen to Stuttgart, became coherent to me. It was as if creation dawned in my mind; a veritable epiphany took place; I became clairvoyant.

I knew my way to the post office. I could do anything.

This newly obtained confidence on my part held a deeper meaning. Having learned my way around and grown comfortable and at ease in my surroundings, I was at last able to feel “at home.” When I first arrived, I stubbornly, and rather idiotically, refused to refer to where I was as “home.” When in France, I talked about “when we get back to Holzgerlingen,” or “the house,” and other such phrases, without actually saying “home.” In the pit of my homesickness, I did not even want to acknowledge the possibility of having another home in Germany. What part of me actually believed it would be possible to survive a hear in Germany without making it my home I do not know. Maybe none of me did. But gradually this obstinacy on my part gave way, and I grew appropriately fond of where I was. I like Germany, and even more, I like my region of Germany. I have some affection growing within me for Holzgerlingen, and even Aldorf, which is the view from my top floor windows. I like my house, and I like my own room best of all.

My parents will probably object to all my talk about finding a new home here, and assure me that home is always… well, home. This is in part true, at least for a little while more. When I talk about Home (with a capital H) I do mean my home in America. But that does not make it my only home. Home is a very tricky word in this way, as it can mean so may different places. We speak of our homes away from homes, and of our homeland, and if we are being spiritual, we even speak of our home as being in Heaven. I do believe I have even referred to places where I have only spent one night as “home,” such as a motel on a family vacation trip. Often enough, home is just the place where we keep all our stuff. But it is still important to have a place you can go to and call home, and accept it as such, for however long a stay it may be. And it was about time I did this for here.

Today marked twenty-three weeks since my arrival in Deutschland, which is important, as it means I have twenty-nine weeks left. My numbers are converging on a point, and this is very exciting for me. As things may be, it is very likely that twenty-six weeks will not mark my actual half-way point. Depending upon the amount of time I take off during my year for travel, and whether or not a friend of mine is able to come travel about Europe with me for an extra two weeks after my year is up, the real maker for my half-way point may shift a bit. But the one-year mark is what I chose to count down to, as it is my primary goal for the duration of my stay.

Also, as an official public service announcement (for those of you I have not managed to tell personally over the past few days) I purchased plane tickets to England, and a mere two days after my half-way mark, I shall be flying to London, from whence I catch a train to Oxford, where I will be meeting a friend currently attending a semester there, and spend five days in her company. I am very much looking forward to this. She has promised to take me to the pub where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis met up for their Inklings meetings. I am half out of my mind with excitement.

3 thoughts on “A Sort of Homecoming (revisited)

  1. Home is indeed such a tricky word. It can apply to so little, and to so much; the places that gain the title don’t always have much in common, and it seems so subjective for something so important. But important it is. I am glad that you feel at home.

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