Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Place as emotional safety net

One of the most emailed items in the New York Times today is this Opinionator column, under the heading/series Anxiety, titled "You Are Going to Die."  The author is Tim Kreider, identified as "the author of “We Learn Nothing,” a collection of essays and cartoons. His cartoon, “The Pain — When Will It End?” has been collected in three books by Fantagraphics."  Kreider starts his column by recounting his observations from a recent visit to the assisted living facility his mother has announced she is moving to, and the column touches on several related themes, including old age and illness, and how society tends to segregate these populations and otherwise make them invisible.

But then the column takes an unexpectedly nostalgic turn about Kreider's own childhood.  In writing about his mother's impending move into what he describes as a very pleasant facility, he notes the implications of that move for him:
But it also means losing the farm my father bought in 1976, where my sister and I grew up, where Dad died in 1991. We’re losing our old phone number, the one we’ve had since the Ford administration, a number I know as well as my own middle name. However infrequently I go there, it is the place on earth that feels like home to me, the place I’ll always have to go back to in case adulthood falls through. I hadn’t realized, until I was forcibly divested of it, that I’d been harboring the idea that someday, when this whole crazy adventure was over, I would at some point be nine again, sitting around the dinner table with Mom and Dad and my sister.
Clearly, Kreider has a strong association between childhood and place, with the farm where he grew up (location unspecified).   Of course, people who grow up in urban locales can also experience such strong attachments to place, but Kreider's had such a rural flair that I couldn't resist featuring it here.  

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