Four years ago I was able to visit my hometown for the first visit since 1994, and only a second since 1973. Because I had moved away and left home behind, I did not think it was possible to become suddenly homesick. My thought was to do a brief revisit, take a lot of pictures that I could put in an album, store in my heart, and perhaps frame a few to hang on the wall. It was to be like a rock group’s farewell tour. I had thought that 40 hours, or so, would be enough. Instead what I discovered in that visit, was that it would never be enough. I was the audience, wanting one more song, and the band, wanting the show to keep going, for old times sake, but not just for that.
The following year I was able to make the trip for a whole week by myself. I had thought I was just going to revisit memories and home. When people would ask, “Are you going to see family?” I simply said, “No, there is no one there, it is just about place, about being and hopefully some writing.”
That was the plan, the expectation, but in the last six weeks before that visit, my life and world got peopled, repopulated, with family I hadn’t known existed (wonderful second cousins), and a childhood friend and his wife. In addition to that, there was a gathering with high school classmates that I really had not known in high school, one I remembered from elementary school, and one from middle school, but I left there with a sense of connection, renewed acquaintances, and new friends.
That was the trip that fueled my blog and deepened my sense that one trip home to Onset was never going to be enough. I have to approach each trip with the understanding that life can change in a moment’s notice and one should never assume. One can always hope, however, and I will always want one more trip as long as I am physically able to make it.
My trips home to Onset, the short ones, and the week long ones, have been an opportunity to encounter my long lost self. The one who was valued, and loved unconditionally, before layers of life and baggage and roles. In high school, and after, there were times when being known as Jack and Maggie’s daughter seemed burdensome, as though I had no identity of my own.
While I am happy to be someone’s wife, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, step- mother, and pastor, to name only a few roles, there was something healing and refreshing about being in that place where I was just Michele Marcellino, Jack and Maggie’s daughter.
My intent in returning to Onset, has the same foundation as the first full week two years ago, to come home and simply be; to let loose of the busyness and demands I place on myself, to shrug them off like an old coat, and take on the peace of the place and just be. So often, I act as many do, as though I were a ‘human doing’ and not a ‘human being.’
Secondly, I go to write. It is true that I can write anywhere, even in a noisy place, but something about Onset digs deep into my soul, and the old addage, to “Write what you know” holds sway.
The third benefit to returning to Onset is the unexpected gift from 2019, of new connections with “Classmates and cousins,” and two friends who were an important part of my long ago life.
Going with the Flow
I return to Onset with hopes, but to the best of my human ability, not assumptions. I hoped to connect with “classmates and cousins” to see the places in Onset that hold so much memory and meaning for me. The main goal for this trip, though, was writing. My good friend Donna and I are in the process of writing a book together. I won’t say much more about the book, until it is done, at least the first final draft, but we are excited.
For a long time in the beginning we would say, “we are trying to write a book…” Chalk it up to fear, realism, a quote from Yoda, perhaps all three. But we have moved from that to saying we are writing. We have certainly hit snags and slow downs. We each have our individual writing projects and life, of course brings its own interruptions. In many ways we are in a better position to make progress with the book now, than a year ago when a family accident cut our trip short.
We live about two hours from each other, but do regular phone check-ins most weeks. Ostensibly to talk about the book, some days we just talk about life and our other projects. Truth, it is easier for me to write a blog post, than to sit and work on the book sometimes. But I think the work we did accomplish this week, and it was a lot, has helped and will help me stick with the story and the discipline needed to write. When I talk about procrastination in writing and other obstacles, do not misunderstand. No one is forcing me to write, it is my own sense of longing. I cannot speak for my friend, though I think she is similarly minded, I left Onset this weekend loving our story and wanting to spend more time with the characters. It is an adventure.
If you are looking at a definition of the word “nostalgia” I cannot deny that it describes my return to Onset, again and again. But there is so much more to it than that. This trip, I did not do some of the things I thought I might do. There was no sitting by the canal looking longingly at the water, just stolen glances while crossing canal bridges. I took only a few pictures at the beach, our writing and work together happened differently than I imagined, but it was real, rich, productive, and fun. We are able to hear each other, trust each other to read and edit each other’s work, plan and suggest, create a plan for moving forward. It was it’s own enriching experience. And it was helpful to be away from the everyday realities of our lives, to spend some time together spinning fiction.
We had wonderful visits with people, and really good seafood and pizza. A sub desire of any visit home is eating seafood, that was as good or better than I remembered it. Seafood and pizza, yum.
I cannot deny that on any visit home, my parents are always close in my thoughts. I did not grow up in a family that visited cemeteries, taking flowers on Memorial Day, or returning for conversations. I am of the mindset that “they are not there.” Yet, when I have only had the opportunity 4 or 5 times in 50 years, so it is something I do when I can. And even though I know that “they are not there,” it felt good to say “thank you and I love you still.”
I am not trying to be fourteen again, or to “bring my parents back” or to live in a fantasy world. What is it about these trips home that is more than nostaliga? It is like looking for my life. Looking back to see what I had left behind, remembering, recovering, and redeeming what was broken and storing reserves, and direction for the rest of my life; the “who am I when I am not a pastor life.” It is about being a sponge, and soaking it all up, reserves for the future. it is about gratitude, more than I can express in a single visit, in a single blog post. Every visit home begins and ends with a stop at the Onset pier and a look a gaze, on Onset Beach, so sharing this picture from the last day, taken by my friend.
I am so thankful! I am a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts and I am
Not holding back the tide,
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