The place where you’re from…

I’m reading a short story called “Post and Beam“, by Alice Munro. The main character has moved away from her small town and her small town family, and is now living in the city. Her cousin hops on a bus and travels across Canada to come for a visit. One of the themes of the story is how we leave part of who we are at home when we leave. So here is Polly, the country cousin, who has come to visit Lorna, and is a bit put off by Lorna’s ‘post and beam’ house (reminds me of the Eichler homes that are popular around here…the picture above is of an Eichler home), which stress architecture over all else, her stainless steel sinks, her ‘fancy’ city life. I suspect she wonders where the Lorna she knew has gotten to. I haven’t finished the story yet, so I’m not sure what’s going to happen.


Then last night we watched a DVD, “Junebug“. The movie was about families and their eccentricities, and all of that, but part of it was about how you leave part of yourself at home when you leave. The main character is a woman, Madeline, an art dealer from Chicago. She is meeting her new husband’s family for the first time, in small town North Carolina. The family isn’t upset at how he has changed at all, because he is the golden child…but he certainly acts just as he is expected to when he is at home, and we, the viewiers (and Madeline, I might add), aren’t really sure which is the REAL deal. The George who sings in the choir at his church, and proxies as the best husband his sister-in-law could have, when her own husband can’t cope? Or the George who prefers the city life, and understands about Madeline’s career, and how important that is to her.

These two things coming together like they did, the DVD and the story, stuck me… how when we leave home, whether we are merely moving across the street, or across the world, what do we leave behind? How do we revert when we return? And how is it for our families, if they come and see us in our new world, to wonder if the old us is even in there, somewhere. I suspect it is different for us all, and a lot has to do with how much we identify with that place, how happy we were there, with the roles that we played in our family and community dynamic. If we were comfortable and happy, we may not have changed much. If we felt that our home was not really that, a home, and that the best thing we could do is get the hell away, then perhaps our family and friends might not recognize the new identity that we have created for ourselves. And, if they also wanted to leave, but haven’t found the way yet, or never will, do they then resent us? Do they feel that we think we’re too good for our old selves? I don’t know that I’m reading the book or the film correctly, getting from them what the artists intended, but those were my thoughts as I was dozing off last night, thinking about the book and the film.

Best line in the flm, I thought: “God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way.” Was the character being ironic? Hopeful? Critical? Supportive? You have to watch the film to find out, I guess.

10 thoughts on “The place where you’re from…

  1. I liked that part in the movie where she tells him that. Where we finally see that he does love his wife. Enough to video tape something she really loves but can’t get the dang VCR to work. 🙂

  2. J-You are just one helluva marvelous critic! After writing a penetrating book and film review, you have the temerity to suggest that you are not sure if what you had just discussed was what the author and filmmaker had INTENDED.
    I am not familiar with either the book or the movie, but am certain that you have hit the nail precisely on the head. Very astute, thought-provoking stuff. And today I’m going to devote some rumination to this “moving away/leaving behind/how do we change” thesis.

  3. If we felt that our home was not really that, a home, and that the best thing we could do is get the hell away, then perhaps our family and friends might not recognize the new identity that we have created for ourselves. And, if they also wanted to leave, but haven’t found the way yet, or never will, do they then resent us?

    from my experience, they do not recognize me for who i have become and they resent me for changing. i am happy and comfortable now that i am away from the small town and the family limits.

    moving to a different place has been the making of me, but i suspect they see it as the ruination!

  4. Great post and some wonderful questions to ponder – thank you!

    With regard to the theme discussed in “Post and Beam” about whether we leave part of who we are at home when we leave. I don’t know about that, but I tend to do the reverse, I take a lot of home to everywhere I go.

    Thanks for the movie recommendation, too!

  5. That was awesome, J – i have Junebug in my Netflix que and now i really cannot wait to see it – I agree, you are a phenomenal critic – the book seems equally compelling the way you describe it.. and if i didn’t have little one on my lap pulling at me, i would love to talk about the home/who-you-are correlation..it’s fascinating..

  6. Great post! I loved that book by Alice Munro, but its been a couple of years since I read it… I should really go back and revisit it!

    Interesting topic. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately myself now that the Hubby and I are planning on staying in one place for a while. Where is “home”? Where are you “from”? I don’t have any answers to that… Yet!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. 🙂

  7. The place where I’m from? Dang……I’m from way too many places. No wonder I don’t feel whole. I’ve left to many pieces of me in to many places.

  8. That’s the second time in 2 days someone has mentioned Junebug to me, and I’d never heard of it before then. It’s an interesting topic: the leaving versus the not leaving. what is gained and what is lost from both.

  9. after watching junebug i felt as if i’d just finished a really good book. i really liked the film and the carolina references were comforting to me as the place i live. and i’m now absolutely addicted to the song from the credits: ‘harmour love’ by syreeta.

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