My first winter (this upcoming will be my third), I got acutely homesickness about once ever two months: I would be walking along and all of a sudden I would be hit with a wave of loneliness and homesickness and want nothing more than to curl up in bed with a hot water bottle and cry. It was a lot like PMT/PMS only without the cramps. The next day I'd feel fine again. This last year has involved homesickness, but usually passing pangs rather than day-long bouts - and I consider myself to be very lucky that occasional days of homesickness has been the worst of it. I know people who were or are chronically homesick. That day, after listening to the podcast, was just a mild funk that lingered for a few days, mostly unnoticed. That's more my life now: every so often there'll be a slight fugue, a day or three when I'm a bit blue around the edges, usually because Something is Happening back home and I feel left out. I only really noticed this last time because, walking to the grocery store, I saw a tiny oak tree, too young to be called even a sapling, and it's leaves were turning orange and red and I thought, "aww, just like poison oak!" and then had to laugh ruefully at myself because, really, who gets nostalgic for toxic flora?
The easiest comfort for homesickness is food, as importing people can be tricky and they tend not to want to sit in your cupboard for weeks or months on end. My friend T, a fellow USian living in the UK, asks people to bring her Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (blue box). I brought a box for her when I came to visit the UK, back when she was a friend of a friend and not someone I'd ever met. When I had a chance to request things I figured, "why not?" and asked for blue boxes of my own. They really do taste like my childhood which is particularly strange given that my mother cooked from scratch, mostly using things grown in our garden, and Kraft Mac'n'Cheese had almost no place in my childhood. But it tasted like childhood, and soup mugs, and standing in my mother's post-earthquake kitchen. Even my husband, who had never had mac'n'cheese from a box, liked it.
I'm down to one box, which like my one bottle of root beer is now For Emergency Purposes Only, so in the name of Science I purchased a box of Kraft Cheesey Pasta (red box) and made it for lunch.
I'd like us all to take a moment and think of the blue box, the one that tastes like home and idyllic moments of childhood. Now think about the red box with the different name but very similar ingredient list and "nutrition information". Obviously it won't be the same. We know this because, if it was the same T wouldn't need to ask people to bring her blue boxes. But we're hoping, despite the colour shift, that it'll be Good Enough. Oh, Gentle Reader, that is not the case! I think they were going for "tastes like Extra Mature Cheddar cheese" but somehow they missed cheese. It was awful in the way that only "children's food" you haven't grown up eating can be. I eventually dumped enough real cheese and salsa over it to make it palatable but I can't imagine how desperately optimistic I'd have to feel to purchase another box. Cry for me, when you see the boxes, blue or red, and remember tale of woe.
* a friend, a passing acquaintance and a woman I don't believe I've met