Upon completion of Wendt’s novel Sons for the Return Home, the poem “Alone for a Week” by Jane Kenyon came to mind. In Kenyon’s poem, the unoccupied space was a testament to the love and intimacy felt by the narrator and husband. Every empty article of clothing that blew in the wind, though hollow and lifeless, was a constant reminder for the narrator of her loved one. Though absent, there was the dear memory of what had, has and will eventually occupy that space once more. It was a parallel through difference and a lovesick emptiness that linked the poem and novel together.
The decision of the abortion highlights this emptiness. The girl writes to the boy describing the indefinite effects: “She wasn’t coming back. . .She still loved him. Loved him more than ever before. But, if they married, she would destroy him with guilt, the cold accusing emptiness, she now had to carry. The abortion had been a mistake, a crime, a sin” (164). The illusion to the guilt as something carried reminded me instantly of the necessary weight of carrying a baby. This parallel in itself constitutes the pain of replacing life and love with guilt, regret and death. Having a baby was never a burden to carry, but something of comfort and joy. Though difficult, it was founded in love and cushioned by two loving hearts.
After the abortion and separation of the boy and girl, the abortion represents not only the death of their child, but of the death of their relationship. For the boy, it meant the death of his connection to his closest thing to a home land, New Zealand. A connection that was severed through the suggestion of his own mother. Always, there was the expectation to return to the glorified land that is Samoa. How fitting, that the one person who demanded a return and commit to tradition played a role in the destruction of the boy’s connection. The girl carried not only their baby, but also was forever nursing the homeland of New Zealand that the boy considered himself a part of. Both were lost when the abortion and separation occurred. As the book ends with the boy in flight over the ocean, it represents his suspension from a homeland and connection.
Thus, through the poem and novel, the two possible ideas of emptiness are portrayed. Two completely different outcomes and positions on love and unoccupied space and one’s homeland. Personal memories fail me as I attempt to establish myself with these aspects of the novel. Despite attending college six hours from my hometown and living for almost 4 months in Italy, never once have I felt truly homesick. As college became a home away from home, Italy became home as well. Despite the lack of a heavy experience of loss or love, I understand both aspects of each. Materials, though deemed unnecessary, represent the people within our lives. Although I was too young to remember meeting him, my grandfather was a Marine pilot in World War II. The aspects of his life remind me of him.
Grandpa Frank flew a Corsair in the War which is something I am proud to share. I think of him every time I hear that type of plane, World War II or about the Marines. Home is heritage and tradition whether represented by religion, race or hometown. Our homes are rooted in connection. Relatives, friends and family make up every thing that instill pride, love and longing. Even a small one, such as the death of cat, which I have experienced, is not major but nonetheless, alters the dynamic of the home. For the boy and girl, the abortion and for the poem, the empty clothes of her husband, all were connections that made the homeland special and important. Without such connection, it is difficult to find oneself rooted in a homeland that lacks the comfort in strength of foundation.