Homesick for a Place That’s Never Been Home

In a week we pack up our two eldest and head south. One we’ll drop off in Boston for fifteen weeks in Uganda. The other we’ll drive to Baltimore for fifteen weeks in the mid-Atlantic.

Other than my layover at Washington National Airport (before it was Reagan National) in Washington, DC, I had never been to our nation’s capital until 2004 when we took the girls there for the Fourth. Since then, I have been there at least half a dozen times and, for reasons I can’t quite explain, I find myself homesick for a place I have never called home.

No doubt my affinity for the District and the mid-Atlantic in general has to do with the fact that 40% of our family now nominally calls it home. On my first set of college visits our eldest and I hadn’t even gotten into the room where GW was holding its information session but she was tugging on my sleeve like a six-year old. “Daddy, daddy! This is where I want to go to school!” How could I possibly see it otherwise?

So since then I have had little but positive associations and experiences with the area. The visits to Baltimore for one school or another, our middle daughter finding a little college nearby to learn history and become a teacher like her mother, dinner at a local haunt now lost to history, a magical April Sunday at Eastern Market and the Lincoln Memorial. It’s a superficial knowledge, to be sure, but I can’t help it.

I have no doubt that what I am experiencing is a form of separation anxiety, that I’m romanticizing a place because two of the people I love most now have part of their lives there. But the architecture, the environment, a sense that this is where things happen (or closer to where they happen), the grandeur and nobility of it all despite the maddening nonsense that goes on in “official” Washington, and a certain degree of Southern gentility, but still enough of a Northern sensibility to make it feel like home all have something to do with it.

Heaven help me when our youngest goes away to school.

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