I have been nostalgic for all things New York since I left the place in 1991, but the trip I took back there last month somehow intensified those feelings and I've been in a New York State of Mind ever since I returned to San Diego. Funny thing is, while growing up there (in Chelsea), I constantly complained about it, loathed the subways and piles of trash on the sidewalks, and dreamed of living in the suburbs. So what gives? It seems to me that many who move away from their hometown ultimately crave the comforts or familiarity of home regardless of where they're from. I know I'm not alone in my sentiments and, in fact, surveyed a few of my friends on Fine Art America regarding this notion. Most of them responded in some way that they do miss various aspects of home. David King, for example, was raised in the Salt Lake Valley and didn't take to flat land, apparently. "I did live somewhere else that was a plains type landscape for two years and missed the mountains dearly," he says.
Dora Hathazi Mendez who was raised in Hungary and finally settled in Portugal says she has nostalgic feelings for her little native city. "I always swallow tears at the airport when I start to hear Hungarian language around me," she says. But she's quick to add that the feelings go away fast because upon returning for a visit, she feels more like a stranger these days. One thing that keeps her yearning for her hometown though, is the food. "When I go back, or my mom comes to visit the grandchildren, I bring or ask for food. Taste of my childhood, mainly unhealthy things, like smoked sausages, a special brand of salami, Hungarian red minced pepper because the goulash soup taste with it like home. A little slice of bacon from home can make miracles," she says.
Abbie Shores didn't even realize she was homesick for her hometown in the UK until she went back to visit. She points out, however, that moving back would not resolve those feelings. "I did not think I was homesick until this week when I traveled back to Yorkshire for more or less the first time since I left. Driving into Leeds and walking around, I realized I was really homesick. It was like a deep pang in the pit of my stomach. I am not sure moving back would be the same as before, as much of my love for the area was then. Homesick? Yes, absolutely, but part of that is for what was back then, not what could be in the future."
I understand that deep pang in my stomach that Abbie speaks of, but I also think to some extent I've romanticized and glorified some of my memories. There's a Welsh word for this phenomenon, which is "hiraeth." It means a feeling of homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was, and the nostalgia, the yearning and the grief for the lost places of your past. Believe it or not, I discovered this concept from watching a documentary about Gloria Vanderbilt called, "Nothing Left Unsaid." Known predominantly as an heiress and fashion designer, Ms. Vanderbilt, 94, is also a talented artist who speaks about the idea in the film and describes the drawing she created with this notion explicitly in mind (hence it's title, Hiraeth, seen here, with a blog post written by someone who I can relate to on all levels considering the loss of my mother when I was a young girl).
Kathleen Bishop understands the hiraeth feeling too. "I'm particularly sensitive to fragrances and the memories they evoke," she says. "I grew up along a creek in a redwood forest beside the Pacific. Whenever I travel home, I always stop at a funky little market in Boonville to grab a sandwich."
But not everyone longs for home. Chuck Staley is perfectly happy to be living the Hollywood life, a world away from the south where he is originally from. "I was born in Memphis right after the depression, so there were 9 of us from my great-grandmother down to me living in this house," he says. "When I got out of the army, I worked in Memphis for a couple of years, then my wife and I moved to Hollywood, each of our lifelong dreams. I never wish to go back to any of those places in which I grew up. I always felt out of place," he adds.
And Kathy Anselmo simply states, "I couldn't move far enough from where I grew up."
How about you? Have you moved away and do you feel a sense of longing? Share your thoughts in the comments.