Somewhere in the world there is a snapshot of me hitching a ride on the back of the red tricycle that my brother Karl is chauffeuring: I am standing tall on the bumper, paper doll-wrapped-in-blanket firmly in my arm. I am probably 4. Grandma and Grandpa have just come to visit us in rural Southern Chile and they’ve brought with them lots of Stateside presents, including a baby doll whose hair I promptly washed and ruined, a doll blanket Grandma had knit, and a doll carriage to push the baby around in. But very best of all were the paper doll books: you’d punch out the dolls and their clothes, which had little fold-y tabs to keep them on the doll.
I loved the plastic 3-dimensional doll, as evidenced by the hair washing —or was it a baptism?— that I gave her in one of the watering troughs in a field on my friend Rosi’s family farm. But I also loved dressing up my paper dolls with their tabbed clothes and carrying them around with me outside.
Something about imbuing a flat piece of paper with life… Maybe meaning is made in the caring and the carrying. I don’t exactly know. But I do know that I care about and carry many things.
At some point rides on tricycle became rides on airplanes, and paper dolls became notebook pages on which I scribbled letters home. At some point a thread called homesickness also began to weave itself into the fabric that is now a half-century of life.
But while homesickness has been a kind of longing that has made me close my eyes, writing is what has made me keep opening them to notice, among other things, what poet Mary Oliver calls: my “place in the family of things.”
Welcome to Heidi’s Pen. It’s the opposite of homesick.
Writing brings me home, wherever in the world I am.