In past blog entries I’ve submitted lists of things I don’t like about myself. One of my least favorite, one that I’ve strategically neglected to mention, is that I don’t do well with any type of souvenir. I don’t take photographs (I don’t even own a camera), don’t make albums and don’t keep mementos. Whenever memories assault me – through a song, a scent, any unintended, uninvited occurrence - I feel frozen in place when what I want to do is run.
Take traveling to Mexico to see my family. I love them more than my own life (and I mean this non-melodramatically), and once I’m there I manage, but before I leave I’d rather be going anywhere else. Seeing them, their things, their habits, their spaces, overwhelms me with a sense of loss that knocks the air out of me. I don’t know what to do with a feeling like this.
Regrettably, there is no word in English for what I’m describing. It’s like being homesick at the very beginning of your trip, when home is really far away. It skids, like nostalgia. It’s dark and thick, like melancholy. It crushes your chest, like longing. Empties you out, like sorrow. It’s like an ocean of sadness that feels both full and empty, gray and bleak and somehow sweet. In Portuguese, the word is Saudade. And I think it’s one of the feelings I dislike most in the world, because it makes me feel helpless. And because it hurts like a needle to a nerve.
Based on empirical research, I sustain that I feel saudade more acutely than the average person. (Otherwise, photo-sharing sites would not be the booming business that they are.)
When we’re traveling, my husband always insists that I buy something to remind me of the place. I decline on the grounds that I won’t forget it, but really what I’m thinking is I’d rather not remember. There will be other places. Why cling to the past when the future is so full of promise?
Every year around December and January, Luca spends at least 50 hours putting together a DVD with all the photos he took throughout the previous year. He adds videos and slideshows with music that best represents each place. He has a DVD library by now, and of course I am going to look at it. Tomorrow.
(Photo: history for kids.org)