It’s a picture perfect view right here, worthy of a postcard. Blue skies with nary a cloud, waving palm fronds, sparkling water rippling in the breeze. A cold glass of iced tea sits on the table beside me, beads of moisture dripping down its sides.
Today marks one month since we arrived here on Marco Island in southwest Florida. And every day, save one or two, has been just as picture perfect as today. Does that ever get old? Sunshine and warm breezes every single day? Of course not. Who in their right mind would open their eyes and say, “Darn, another day of sunshine! What I wouldn’t give for some gray skies and cold wind, maybe even a little frozen precipitation of one sort or another.”
Before we left on this trip, I was telling an acquaintance about our plans to spend six weeks in Florida this year. “We’ve never done anything like this,” I told her. “But it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. We’ll have to see how it works out."
“Well, whatever happens, it will be an adventure!” she replied.
And it has been. Within a few days of our arrival, our son and his family arrived for two weeks. My grandson Connor was ecstatic with the heated swimming pool, and there were many happy, splashy pool days. There is a playground and water park right across the street, which came in handy for him too. The library is in walking distance and we loaded up with books for him to read. In between, I had a raging sinus infection and could barely hear for four days. We also had a trip to the Emergency Vet hospital (allergies and extreme itching for Magic) which added some extra excitement.
Soon after they left, Jim had to return to Michigan for a couple of weeks to work, but two of my friends each spent a few days each with me to relieve the loneliness. Now it’s just me (and Magic and Molly) until Friday, when Jim returns for a few more days before we pack up and start the three-day journey north to Michigan.
This is my week, then, to settle down and begin to evaluate this little adventure. From where I sit, there is much to think about. Because although I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity to have done this, I’m not sure I want to do it again.
Here’s the deal. I get homesick. Really homesick. It’s the reason most of our vacations only last about a week at the most - I can’t take any more time away from home. I feel silly admitting this - after all, I’m a 60 year old woman, not a kid at summer camp. But the first couple of weeks we were here, I woke up every night almost in a panic about wanting to go home. True, I was sick and everybody wants to be home when they’re sick. But more than that, I was yearning for my familiar surroundings, my fully stocked kitchen, my car, my couch, my bird feeders, my television, my piano, my FRIENDS...well, you get it.
It’s been a tough transition for my dogs too, especially Magic. He’s been deaf for about a year, but I didn’t realize how poor his vision was until he was placed in unfamiliar territory. The first day when we let him onto the lanai, he walked right into the pool, unable to see that it was water. He wanders around the house looking for me, and has made a safe haven for himself in the bathroom behind the toilet. Needless to say, this breaks my heart. I just want to get him home safely so he’ll be more comfortable.
Novelist Elizabeth Strout writes: “I don’t especially like to travel, not in the way so many people do. I know many people who love to go to far off different places. I’ve never been like that. I seem to get homesick as quickly as a child."
I was six years old the first time I spent a night away from home. That summer we traveled to Kentucky to visit my mothers aunts and uncles. I can still picture the sprawling front porch on their white farm house nestled deep in a shady hollow. The one room schoolhouse my mother attended was right across the dirt road and a tiny Presbyterian church was next door. I loved playing with my cousins, walking barefoot up the hill, sinking my toes into the cool bluegrass. But after a couple of days, I began to feel uneasy and upset. I cried easily, especially in the evenings when my mother would bathe me in my aunt’s big old claw-footed bathtub where the rusty well water went gurgling down the drain with an alarming sound. My fingers itched to play the little tunes I’d been learning in my first piano lessons, but that I loved playing over and over every day.
My mother fretted and worried. “Oh, she’s just homesick,” my Aunt Emily said to reassure her. “She’ll be alright in a day or two.” And I did stop crying, and I did enjoy the rest of the visit, but I was oh-so-happy to get in the car and head for home.
I’ve loved so many things about this trip - the warm, sunny days of course, but also playing with my grandson, spending some quality times with my son and daughter in law, re-visiting some of our favorite places in Naples. I know when I return to the slate gray skies of Michigan, I’ll be yearning for the mornings I sat by the pool in my pajamas, drinking coffee and reading a book.
But there is still a part of me that longs for those “slate gray skies of home” (to paraphrase an old Tom Jones song). It’s where I feel safe and where everything is familiar. It’s where my true heart lies.
That’s what is really at the heart of homesickness, isn’t it? A longing to be in that place where you feel safe, loved, and secure. Where you know who you are and what you’re supposed to do. Because another huge factor in my homesick equation is not having anything to DO. Like many women I know, “relaxing” doesn’t come naturally or easily to me, particularly when it’s for extended periods of time. When I’m home, I can sit down for about 30 minutes before some little voice starts nagging me to get up and do some laundry, or work on a press release for the community theater, or write a blog post, or clean out a closet, or wipe up those paw prints on the tile. After five weeks here, I’m shopped out, tired of restaurant food, and pretty much ready to return to real life.
I’ve gradually become less homesick, more accustomed to this house and its spaces. In the past couple of days here on my own, I’ve made a list for myself of things to do to keep busy - some writing projects, studying new music for our spring season of Classical Bells, riding my bike daily at the park across the street. I allow myself to linger a bit longer in the reading chair than I typically do at home.
Just as I did when I was six, I’ve settled into this new and different space, and made it my own as much as I can.
But come next week when we pack up the car and head north, there will be a smile in my heart.