Driving north on I-94 I got my first glimpse of Milwaukee’s skyline. A wave of homesickness washed over me. I said to my wife, Tammy, “This is the city that really knows me.” When you live the majority of a lifetime in a place you take on its characteristics and identify with its traits. That’s why you feel homesick if you’ve been away for a while and then come back.
I was born and raised in Milwaukee. All but my post-graduate education was pursued there. I performed in college and community theatre. My youth was even sometimes occupied by being lead singer in various bands. Milwaukee saw me on stage, heard me speak at graduation ceremonies, and watched me play football. I can remember buying my first car there and securing our first apartment as a married couple.
We left for a while. When we came back to Milwaukee I served a church in the heart of the city for fifteen years. I taught at Concordia University – Wisconsin. For thirteen years I coached baseball. Our kids grew up in the city. I was privileged to be a part of a community organizing group called Common Ground. No matter where I went in town I was likely to bump into someone I knew. It was home.
There were connections I had. I knew upon whom I could call for certain projects. When I wanted to form a creativity club I knew the people that would jump at the chance. If I needed an actor, or a stop sign put on a certain corner, or a prof to answer a question, those people were a phone call away and very willing to help out. I guess I’m sometimes homesick as much for the people as I am for the city.
But now we live in Orlando, Florida. It’s a wonderful place with beaches, palm trees, and Disney. Only in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined I would live in such a warm and exotic place. I tell Tammy nearly every day: “I love living in Florida!” Our daughter, son-in-law, and soon to be grandchild also live there. We’ve made many wonderful friends and great connections during our relatively short time in Florida. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get homesick when I occasionally go “home.”
Orlando is now my “home.” But Milwaukee will always be home. It will take time, but I’m certain Orlando will one day know me in similar ways as does Milwaukee. In the mean time it’s up to me to get to know my new “home” and its wonderful people.
What causes you to be homesick?