I don’t typically feel terribly homesick on a day-to-day basis. My pangs of nostalgia, yearning, and lust for things ranging from missing my family and friends back home terribly to seriously craving the avocado and cheese sandwich and homemade lemonade from Café Habana in NYC ebb and flow like most emotions do. On Sundays, I often wish that I could teleport myself to Brooklyn for brunch and bloody marys with my sister, but I don’t dwell on it.
Sometimes, though, the sight or sound of something seemingly out of place here raises my sense of longing and, and, I don’t know… loyalty to my roots… than I typically seem to have. Spotting a car in the parking lot at work with Ohio license plates the other day suddenly seemed normal, as though I had entered any other parking lot attached to any shopping center in America, until just as suddenly, it seemed completely out of place. Like, how did this enormous SUV suddenly appear in Iceland, because surely, it had to have been transported here by ship, and that is prohibitively expensive, so who are these people and what are they doing here from Ohio? And that moment of shifting from what felt like something completely normal to what felt out of place sparked an ache in my stomach, triggered by — I’m not sure what — an attachment to something that felt familiar and then an immediate disconnection from it in that moment of realization, I suppose.
Last week, on a particularly difficult day, I went out to the car during lunchtime, and as I turned on the radio, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” came on the station. I found myself cranking up the sound so loudly, that anyone within earshot would have likely thought I had lost my mind. Granted, it’s a good song, but in that moment, it felt so comforting to hear for some reason.
Likewise, I heard Arlo Guthrie’s song “New Orleans” on the radio this morning while heading out to work. I have no personal connection to New Orleans, but the song is a testament to the passage of time and to classic American folk songs that somehow maintain a presence in our collective conscience. Arlo Guthrie, the son of folk legend Woody Guthrie — the man who gave us “This Land is Your Land” — carried the musical torch that his father handed down to him, and gave us folk songs that we could identify with — as a nation, I suppose.
There’s always talk about loyalty in the US — loyalty to the “country,” mainly, but not to each other as a cohesive fabric, a quilt made from numerous shapes, segments, and colors that are beautifully patched together into intricate, delicate, and complex patterns, such that even the irregularities are magnificent. Now the stitching has simply fallen apart, and there doesn’t seem to be enough thread to fix it.
Since moving to Iceland, I’m not sure where to call “home” anymore. I have two homes, in the sense that they are places I am connected to, even if I don’t feel that I particularly belong in either of them. After all, at what point do we feel we actually belong someplace? Is it the moment we feel that we cannot live without it? Or is it merely a sense of familiarity that makes us feel at peace with our surroundings?
I can’t imagine leaving this place behind, but I also can’t imagine ever not missing my home in the US. Right now, as I type this, I feel pangs of longing to see my parents, to hug them, and tell them that I love them in person. I miss entering a store and hearing a welcoming, beaming “Hello!” from the person at the counter, or the familiarity of overhearing fragments from other people’s conversations while walking down the street. I miss the bustling, often frenetic pace of New York at times, and the in-your-face-realness of it all. And I’m not sure that that is something that easily goes away. So for now, I’ll get my quick fixes on the radio.