Archive for Thursday, October 2, 2003

Bits and Pieces

Wanderlust leaves traveler wondering

October 2, 2003

I haven't traveled much in my lifetime. I traveled to Ireland with a group from St. John's church in Lawrence two years ago, so it was my first trip overseas. It was a big deal for someone who is afraid of water.
This summer I spent a few days in Minnesota. (Remember the car adventure -- breaking down on the highway etc.?) Recently we traveled with my son's family to Estes Park, Colo. Soon I will be off on a 10-day trip to Italy.
Talking to my daughter about my upcoming trip, I realized I would be away during the Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin City -- one of my favorite events. I also noticed while going into Kansas City this past week that the trees were starting to turn, and autumn has officially begun. The sun is in a different position now that it's fall. In the morning it hits you squarely in the eyes as you drive into the city, and it does the same in the evening, just before it sets, making it impossible to see.
In spite of the inconvenience, I have always loved watching the way the sunlight changes as the seasons change. All of this reminds me of the things I will miss while I am gone, even though it will be for just 10 days.
I was surprised at my reactions when I thought about trading a once-in-a-lifetime trip for another Maple Leaf event that I have attended for about 30 years, but there it was.
I have always been curious about what is over the next hill or mountain. Not having the opportunity to travel for many years I now find myself jumping at the opportunity when anyone says, "Let's go." That's why I found it odd to be feeling strangely homesick even before I have left.
At a gathering to prepare for our trip, I heard a lady say, "It was so good to get home" from another trip, and here she is planning to go on yet another. What is it about us that wants to go but at the same time wants to stay? It reminds me of my niece Annie, who as a fiercely independent teen-anger used to tell her mother at bedtime, "Come pat me, but don't touch me."
We have the family story of my grandmother who traveled to California during World War II to visit her children and husband, who had all migrated there as part of the military or to work in the war plants.
One day while strolling about in I.Magnin, a large upscale department store where my aunt worked, she happened to see someone across the room who she just knew had to be from home -- Emporia. Realizing how homesick she was to see a familiar face, she raced across the room but found she had spotted her own reflection in the mirror. She came back to Kansas a few days later.
My uncle, who was an officer in the military for many years, traveled the globe, dragging his poor wife to various cities both in the United States and overseas. He never failed to call home every weekend during those years to see what was happening in Emporia.
I can remember my grandmother sitting on a little green stool by the phone Sunday evening, waiting for the call that always came. No matter how far away my uncle might be, he remained tied to "home," if only by phone.
After his retirement, he and his wife settled on a ranch near San Diego, and she never again took another trip. Instead she gathered her family around her there and that became "home."
We all know so many cliches about home: "Home sweet home," "Home is where the heart is," and others. My niece Rennie always says, "Home is where your stuff is."
I've noticed a few of the young people who left Eudora for college in August are already back for visits. Homesick, maybe?
My three-year-old grandson, Lucas, on our recent trip to Estes Park was getting a little weepy and talked about wanting a particular toy that was at home. He was eventually distracted and obviously shifted gears quickly, as only the young can do, when later he asked whether we could now go home to our "mountain home."
So why do I travel when I'm already feeling homesick? I really don't have a good answer. The main reason I am going to Italy is to visit Assisi, the home of St. Francis, who has been my favorite for many years. Being schooled by the Franciscans in Emporia, I have always felt a bond with them as well as their concern for the weakest in our society.
They also taught me that worldly goods only satisfy a very shallow part of our existence. While I believe this, I still find myself strolling through stores where not one item fills a "need" in my life.
I recently found a jewel of a book, "A View from the Heartland," by David Chartrand, a syndicated columnist who lives in Olathe. He writes about home, hearth and family in a pleasant flowing fashion, filling the pages with funny everyday stories we can all relate to, especially as Midwesterners and Kansans.
I highly recommend it to you as well as for a gift to another Midwesterner. Reading the book, I discovered my upcoming homesickness might not be for a place but rather for the people in that place. Maybe that's what "home" is really all about.

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