On Going Home
In the essay, “On Going Home,” Joan Didion’s attitude toward “home” changes from dread of tension to peace that she wishes to give her daughter. Though Didion is now grown with a child of her own, her adult family life differs in many ways from the family life of her childhood. Returning home for her daughter’s first birthday, she her feelings change about the place she once dreaded. Didion, now residing in Los Angeles, has a much faster paced life vastly different than the slower life of her family home in the Central Valley of California. The tension of her family makes even phone conversations hard to endure. The anxiety Didion had concerning her childhood home are unknown in the beginning of the essay as Didion states, “I had by all objective accounts a “normal” and a “happy” family situation, and yet I was almost thirty years old before I could talk to my family on the telephone without crying after I had hung up. We did not fight. Nothing was wrong. And yet some nameless anxiety colored the emotional charges between me and the place that I came from.” After being home with familiar family conversations and keepsakes scattered among her parent’s home, she begins to feel a peace and need for her family. Her husband does not understand the significance of the dust covered memories in the home, but Didion encounters them with every turn from a picture of her grandfather as a young man to the tea cups painted by her grandmother. When her husband calls with updates of “their remote life in Los Angeles,” and encourages her to get out and drive to San Francisco, she decides to, instead, drive to the family cemetery to visit. This visit suggests that she enjoys the peacefulness of her old family life. After visiting with her great-aunts, who don’t comprehend even who she is, and a trip to her father’s ranch, Didion continues to feel the comforts of home. After her daughter’s birthday party, she gazes at her daughter...
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