Love is an extremely powerful force. It has the capability to shape a person. It can mold their view on objects, people, and places. It can even reshape what one calls home. Often this happens with romantic love, when one finds someone in a place that was previously disagreeable, even undesirable. People move for the ones they love. Or they begin to love a place that they connect with their children or best friend. For me this love was platonic but binding. It occurred to turn my high school, a place I had every desire to leave, into a place that I will always look back upon with warmth.
I had spent three years tolerating high school, loving aspects of it but never forming a full bond with it. I had originally wanted to leave my all girls Catholic school for the freedom of public school, but the musicals and location downtown kept me there. However I lacked a tight knit group of friends. I had several good friends, but my closest friend was part of a group of catty girls that I had little desire to associate with. At the beginning of my senior year, however, on a whim I went for coffee with a girl, Becky, I only knew a bit and her close friend Alex to see our mutual friend, Jenna, sing at the coffee shop. The three of us, and later Jenna as well, bonded that night, and soon Alex’s brother Eric began to spend time with us. The five of us quickly formed a very close bond based around a mutual, nerdy love of music and Broadway. We became like a family, all looking out for one another and spending weekends around the piano. With this grew the appreciation for my high school. Jenna, Becky and I would escape to the orchestra room to eat lunch amidst the keyboards and music stands. I began to realize that school was no longer a place I spent nearly all of my time. It was, in fact, a home, made all the more beautiful by the people I was surrounded with. I suddenly did not want to leave high school, and when the time came I said goodbye to the beautiful downtown location and estrogen-loaded hallways with a sense of sadness. I knew that this place I once looked forward to leaving would always hold a special place in my heart. And I had my lovely friends to thank for that.
The boy in Sons for the Return Home by Albert Wendt has gone through twenty years in New Zealand with a tired and self-imposed loneliness until he meets the girl. All that he does up until that point is in preparation for and anticipation of his return to Samoa. However, in his love for the girl, he falls in love as well with New Zealand. As he expresses, he has always absorbed his parents stories of Samoa, but with this love he realizes that New Zealand is a place he could truly call home. He begins to appreciate where he has spent so much time by seeing it through her eyes, just as my friends helped me to see how much I really could love my high school.
When the boy and the girl are separated by the abortion that devastates them both, he returns to Samoa with his family like he was supposed to, but all he does seems to be mechanical, on autopilot. “It was hard to believe that he had spent nearly twenty years preparing and waiting for this return. So many years and now nothing more than an uncomfortable seat…with the mythical characters of the legends his parents had nourished him on for so long” (172-173). It all seems unbelievable to him, this return to Samoan life after so long, and he reverts to the traditions of the New Zealand papalagi culture that he once tried to reject and tune out before meeting the girl. His realization that he needs to return to New Zealand, could not be happy without it, marks how deeply their love changed him. My friendships similarly changed my view of the city I longed to leave after high school. I did leave, but returning home is so much greater a reward seeing the city the way that they taught me to see it, even when they are not there to share it with. The boy does not return home to the girl. However he finds closure in returning to the place she made his home.
Perhaps they never were meant to be together. The description describes the two as “star-crossed lovers,” a phrase that for me implies some sense of tragedy due to the famous Romeo and Juliet line. But perhaps it is not total tragedy. They were star-crossed, and their love had a purpose. They both learned about themselves, experienced a very true form of love, and the boy found his true home. Had they never met, he might have been without a home, as the customs of Samoa were too distant from what he grew up with, yet he could relate to no New Zealander. She gave him a home, a place to love and bond with. Without her love, he would have remained homeless, but through their love his heart found a place to be happy.