By Molly Phegley
A Remedy for Homesickness
The things that stay
stick to me like glue
and settle under the skin
only to be disclosed in moments of revelation.
The things that stay
wrap me in a warm embrace
of familiar feelings
and moments I’ve observed before
a curly-headed child singing along with the birds in the park
the sweet smell of honeysuckle from my childhood backyard
a seashell with a tiny hole, perfect for making a necklace.
The things that stay
slowly mold me into the person I am:
the flicker of gold that reflects from a tin rooftop at sunset
the uplifting ring of a much-too-familiar laugh
the taste of cool, rusty water from a fountain spigot
I can’t put my finger on it
but I’ve been here before.
Influence from experiences undergone
imprints from lessons learned
I am who I am
because of the things that stay
Sculpting me piece by piece like papier-mâché.
I will never forget the overwhelming joy my five-year-old self felt while giggling until my belly hurt from playing dodgeball with my father and brother in our basement when we couldn’t sleep. Or the cozy, smoky scent that lingered through my childhood home every winter from our wood-burning furnace. Or making cute, paper crafts with my grandma every time my parents went out of town.
These memories have found a permanent residence in my heart as triggers of reassurance and comfort, even if I go years without thinking of them. They find their way into my present life in the oddest of places and times, creating a feeling of home wherever I may go.
I recently spent five months in Spain as a solo traveler and student. Being someone who has lived in Cape Girardeau my whole life, this transition was exceptionally challenging. This town here in Southeast Missouri was all I had ever known. It was my home. At least I thought it was, until I found home within myself, halfway across the world.
There were many times while in Spain that I experienced feelings of discomfort I had never faced before. One moment specifically was during my first few days in Barcelona. After finding myself lost in a maze of Gothic alley walls with no cellular service or direction back to my apartment, I began to feel isolated by fear. I paced the streets, trying to hide my panic, until I passed a cozy shop that emitted a curiously familiar smell of grape incense, reminding me exactly of the fruity scent of my childhood play makeup. A feeling of comfort rushed over me as a gentle reminder home was still within me, even in the most foreign places. This comfort cleared my mind long enough for me to continue wandering until I found a familiar street that led me back home.
A few months later, I was sitting with my thoughts on a bar patio in southern Spain. Although I experienced many moments of happiness while abroad, I sometimes found myself feeling very small compared to the vastness of the world around me. It was moments like these, when I felt overwhelmed and alone, that home would shine through in unexplainable ways. At this moment, a black, fuzzy caterpillar inched its way across the chair next to mine. It looked just like the ones my brother and I would catch every fall during our walk home from the school bus, searching them out in between crunchy steps on fallen leaves. That caterpillar reminded me that even when I feel engulfed by this enormous world, the smallest things can still bring me back to a place of familiarity.
Thinking back to my first month in Spain, I was struggling with finding friends I resonated with and could feel like myself around. I held high expectations, as the people I am surrounded by in Cape Girardeau are some of the greatest friends I’ve ever had. Those high expectations were my downfall when it came to socializing. I felt isolated from not sharing the same interests or humor as many of the people I met. I felt quite discouraged, until one night, I was introduced to a group of girls at a jazz bar in the hipster neighborhood in Barcelona. I began speaking with a girl named Felizia from Sweden, and I instantly saw my best friend Chloie in her. Felizia’s curiosity and love for life is identical to Chloie’s, who has always reminded me to slow down and truly enjoy life. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so lonely anymore.
These feelings of home make appearances in each phase of my life, reminding me every person, moment and experience still resides within me. Each instance of comfort and happiness that made up my childhood still shines through today in glimpses of familiarity, helping to guide me through a journey away from what I once considered to be my one and only “home.” I’ve learned along the way my home continues to grow and change, and I now have found a version of home halfway across the world. The five months I spent living in another country have shown me wherever I may end up, home is what has been developed inside my soul from the things that stay.