Yesterday I spent another session with the immigrant high school students. And it came to me again--for this is no new discovery--that what is drawing me to this class is a bond of homesickness. Most high schoolers I work with don't have a powerful sense of elegy. But these children do, and it constantly emerges in their conversations and their writings. They come from many different places, and they have many different skills and backgrounds and pains and joys. But they are bonded with one another over a deep understanding of loss, and that connection is so clear, so evident, even in their banter and their simple physical behavior with one another.
I was talking with one girl--I think she may be from Iran--who told me that she has a vivid memory of this past Christmas, her first in Portland: of walking outside at night, with the snow coming down under the streetlights, and the bay blinking along the stones, and the little narrow-gauge engine chugging up and down its track, puffing its smoke, playing at being the Polar Express. And I said to her: "That's just what I remember! This was my first Christmas in Portland too!" And we looked at each other: a 15-year-old and a 52-year-old; strangers. It was a moment of comprehension for both of us.
Anyway, it's good I've fallen into this situation because I know that sadness is taking its toll on me. I went to the doctor yesterday and told her about the intermittent anxieties and palpitations and traveling nervous pains that I've been working on overcoming since I first found out I would have to leave home. I am perfectly healthy, but my body is sorrowing. Still, I'm better than I was, and I know the classroom visits are helping. They give me perspective, certainly. These children have endured death and disaster; they have fled wars and warlords, often alone. I didn't cross continents; I drove two hours south. Yet a loss is a loss.