Sunday, August 30, 2015

Longings Never Cease

My son returned from three and a half years in the Peace Corps and has been living in our home as he searches for the new pieces needed to rebuild his life here. We are watching his roller coaster adjustment, and he’s filled with the emotions predicted by the Peace Corps before he ever left this country all those years ago.

“The return is rough,” he heard from numerous people.    
We’ve all expected his adjustment to be hard, so his father and I move in close, then slip into the background over and over, trying to delicately find the balanced dance that will allow him to heal and live here with a new, bilingual heart that now beats in both English and Macedonian.
And this mother’s heart wants to tell him the pain will subside, the longings will cease. He’ll move on, and all those people he fell in love with in those simple mountainous villages will drift into his memory along with the Call to Prayer he heard chiming throughout the day.
Kenzie with his good friend, Nikola.
But I’m too familiar with longing to know those words would be false.
I’ve never lived overseas, and the places I long for are accessible by a very long car drive, but I may never live there again. As a born and bred New Englander, I feel haunted by shadows of antique coastal towns with sea kissed breezes, but it’s likely I’ll only return for the occasional visit rather than the four-seasoned life. Not impossible, but unlikely.  
 Two men playing chess in the mountains
I miss the gentrified Virginia city of Richmond where we spent eleven years and where one of my sons has found and built a satisfying life. Some days, I drive imagined roads of the city and remember the rising curves and falls, so different than these Illinois flatlands. I remember the lilting sounds of Southern accents and the history so foreign to this Yankee girl.
But living in any place for an extended period of time seems to invite us to adopt the local history as our own, because who really owns history anyway?
And even more than places, I long for people who have passed. People who strongly shaped me and my memories, for better and for worse. Some days I’d love to tell them how it all turned out, how I healed, how life became okay. Instead of speaking, I dream of them, engaging in one-sided conversations from my imagination and wake in tears as I recount the dreams to my husband.
Kenzie's original host family. They remain close friends.
So my son will long for friends, for a gentle culture, for family-centered community that he experienced in Macedonia with many he now considers “brothers.” He engaged and connected with the unrest from their nation’s past and now carries their lives within as he makes his new way. 
His longings are invisible to most, but they’re living with a raw power beneath the surface. The most we can do is walk this painful road with him, enjoy the memories he chooses to share, encourage him to visit, and watch as he takes their history on as own.
But likely this longing will never cease.


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