Since November 2017, I have been a long way from home. I see some of my family members about twice a year, others only during Christmas time. It’s a particularly tough drawback to living overseas; homesickness is a part of my daily routine. So, when I finally do get the chance to see my family in the flesh and give them big bear hugs (ranging from the Paddington to Winne the Pooh variety) not a moment goes to waste.
Sitting by the fireplace in my parent’s cozy New Hampshire home, sprinkled with the zippy glitter of a fresh snowfall, is utter luxury for a person like me, and on the days the pang of homesickness is a little more palpable, my memory follows the trail of chimney smoke all the way home.
Others living overseas can attest to this, I’m sure, but under the current circumstances, I realize we are no longer the only ones who feel a long way from home.
Many of those who live just down the street from their loved ones feel much the same. Right now maintaining distance and avoiding big bear hugs are acts of love. Masked faces are among the most trustworthy. Washing our hands raw gives us comfort.
But during this uncertain time, I have also found comfort in the sanctity and tender tenacity of renewed friendship.
A couple of days ago, I spoke with one of my best friends from childhood, Ewa, for a couple of hours on zoom. After I left Singapore at the age of nine, Ewa and I, once thick as thieves, lost contact for many years until I found her on Facebook in high school. After that, we messaged back and forth on occasion, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 reared its ugly head that we finally spoke face-to-face (kind of).
It was a gift beyond words. After recounting a truckload of memories, ranging from our minor roles in our school’s production of Wind in the Willows to the cheesy marvels of Sentosa Island, Ewa had brought Singapore in all its nostalgic glory to my front step. I no longer felt so far from one of the many homes that life has so kindly built for me.
What we are experiencing now is the new normal in many respects. It will take a long time to recover from this, but thorny situations have a tendency to sprout a few roses. They may seem inconspicuous and fleeting at first, but I can say with absolute certainty that they are there. The beauty of the human spirit will always find a way to flourish in the worst of conditions: old friends will come out of the woodwork; creative, life-saving solutions will manifest in the most unlikely of places; tender tenacity will prevail.
Our collective roof may be leaking, but our friends and adversaries alike have buckets to lend, bonded by the rosy truth of humanity: although we may feel a long way from home, the distance separating us from our neighbors near and far has never felt shorter.
Keep on keeping on,