Friday, November 16, 2012

How to Nurture Your Homesickness

Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was. ~ Jodi Picoult, Handle With Care

I've been toying with homesickness lately. Or, rather, it's been toying with me. I don't know how it happens, but sometimes the feeling creeps up behind me and slowly wraps around me like a blanket on a cold winter night. At other times, it lands on my head like the fabled NY State mountain lion pouncing out of the Adirondack forest, wrestling me to the ground, forcing me to stop and reflect on things past and things I might wish were present.

Why does a memory, an on-line chat with an old friend or some feeling that's been floating unresolved in my heart for years have me thinking about my hometown until I crave it like chocolate? 

I grew up in Hermon, New York, a town that's not small, it's minuscule. According to the website City Data, the population is currently at a scant 422. I'm sure my mom knows them all. Heck, I haven't lived there for over 20 years and I probably still know at least half of them. Not much changes year to year in Hermon.

Yes, the town really is named "Hermon".

For some reason, when I get in these homesickness funks, I like to torture myself by keeping it going for as long as possible. I don't consciously nurture it, but I find myself dwelling on things that keep my mind about 250 miles from where I'm currently living.

So, how can you get yourself in this type of funk, too? You know you want to! Here are my step by step directions for nurturing your homesickness:
  • Look at pictures, both old and new. Nothing fans the flames of homesickness like old photos. New photos don't hurt, either. I usually take a bunch of photos when I visit my mom in Hermon every summer.  
  • Imagine what it would be like to live there now. In all honesty, I'm not sure I could go back to live in Hermon. It's pretty far from a lot of conveniences I've gotten used to in the last 20 years. Still, there's a simplicity about life in the North Country that I know I romanticize when I'm in a homesickness funk. 
  • Chat with old friends on line. This is actually what set off this particular bout of homesickness for me. I knew a lot of good people up there and have a lot of good memories. I miss those times when we were all young and didn't have adult responsibilities. Being young and naive was a joy we didn't appreciate at the time. Reconnecting with old friends through Facebook makes me remember how I used to be - how we all used to be - in Hermon back in the day.
The truth is, sometimes I'm sad I left. But, even as a child, I always knew I would. Teens in small towns make big plans for "getting out of here someday". It was a hot topic amongst me and my closest friends. We didn't quite know what we had, right there in Hermon.

When I go back to visit, I can't wait for that moment when I drive down out of the mountains and look at the green fields and trees that surround Hermon in the summertime. I only ever seem to make it up there once a year. It's not nearly often enough. Maybe the way to put this homesickness to rest is to go home.

The road to Hermon (or maybe this is the road out of Hermon, I don't remember which direction I was standing in when I took this.)

A typical Hermon scene.

I want to ride my bike on the back roads. I want to hang out with old friends at the Skunk's Nest, the neighborhood bar. I want to take my kids to the school playground. I want to breath the fresh air, which, if I recall, smells like woodsmoke this time of year.

For now, though, it'll have to wait. All those adult responsibilities keep me here to wrestle with mountain lions in this neck of the woods.


  1. I have the same feelings about Gouverneur/Richville. I also know that no matter how homesick I am, I can't ever really go back- it's not the same. I like to visit, and reminisce, but I can't really recapture that. That makes it even more bittersweet, I think.

  2. I agree. It's never the same when I go back. I always want it to be, though.

  3. It hurts to go back sometimes because it isn't the same and so "nurturing" is an interesting way of looking at it. Yet so much of life is about accepting change, and embracing it or nurturing change. Again you have given me much to think about.


    1. Carol, thank you for commenting! Yes, I agree, life is about accepting change, but it's hard to just let all the past go and I wouldn't want to. I don't have any regrets, though. I hope it doesn't come across that way. I'm very happy with where I am now and can't think of a better place to raise children.

  4. Hermon sounds (and looks) wonderful. I'm glad there are others out there who feed the beasts of nostalgia and meloncholy. It usually results in a great post.

  5. I love the pictures they are wonderful.... I know how it feels to be home sick. I just moved into a new town because of the housing prices and boy do I miss my hometown!

    1. Moving to a new town is so hard, especially if you're far away from home. Hope your new place feels like home soon.