Monday, October 12, 2009
I read somewhere that people tend to live in places that remind them of their childhood. Or more specifically a place where they felt safe as a child. And I suppose when we find one of those places our child-like side take over. We are awed. We become stubborn. We never want to leave.
This summer in San Sebastian was that way for me. The fishing village where we lived on the fyord by the sea, the tiny boat that carried us from one side of the river to the next (this watercolor shows the river and village across the way; the little boat too), the Basque festival that went on for eight days, the morning swims I grew to love (just walking out the door and into the river that led to the sea) and our nights roaming San Sebastian itself.
I loved the crescent shaped beach that wove its way around the city, the fact that we could stand at the edge of the sea with the city, filled with jazz and nightlife, behind us. We could swim all day, take a shower right there on the beach, and head out for the evening. The tapas, the txacoli (that great effervescent wine).
As I have written before in this blog I fell in love. And, as lovers do, I was devastated when we had to part. I went home, I got back into my routine, but mostly I was just going through the motions. For weeks I could not understand why leaving San Sebastian had been so difficult for me. And why I couldn't leave it behind. Surely I had left other places and moved on.
We have done our exchanges for over twelve years. And before that I have traveled for decades. During our exchanges we actually lived somewhere. Florence, the Loire, Cataluna, County Clare. Each time we cleaned the house, we stocked the fridge. We left, sadly at times, but also ready to move on. But this time was different. This time I hadn't wanted to leave at all and I felt as if I had a hole in my heart.
Two weeks after returning, and with a sense of longing that had not abated, my family and I went to Chicago to visit family. We were going to Plum Farm, which I have written about before, but my cousins, Mike and Donna, agreed to loan us their Chicago apartment for a night or two. They live not far from where my parents used to live before they moved to Milwaukee. An apartment on Lake Shore Drive that overlooks the lake. Though I had been to Chicago many times over the years, I had not stayed near the lake which I loved as a girl.
As a child in summer in the town where I lived I swam in it almost every day. And then when my parents moved to the city I went to the lake each day when I visited. The tug of Lake Michigan has never left me. Now in that car, as we were toward the lake, we came upon the Oak Stret beach. I saw the blue crescent, the city behind me with its jazz and nightlife.
In the morning I walked right outside and jumped in the lake. It was a Proustian moment for me. A taste of my own madelaine. In the cold waters of the lake that I understood how lost I'd felt leaving San Sebastian. After all these years I'd come home.