Experiencing heartbreak 3,000 miles from home

Herald Reporter Tiffany Royal discovers homesickness at Kingston's 4th of July

What a strange Fourth of July.

With most people, it’s usually spent with family at an afternoon barbeque or a picnic with friends. For me in Cincinnati, it was all that, then down to the Ohio River or Blue Ash for the fireworks show put on by the local pyrotechnic family, the Rozzis.

This year was different. I was by myself — literally. And after being in North Kitsap for three weeks (KitsAp, not KitsIp, as I’ve been politely corrected by several natives), it finally hit me on Thursday how much I missed my family.

I drove over to Kingston for the big day — my first big festival assignment. Now, I studied feature writing in college. This should have been easy for me. Study people, talk to people, watch their reactions. Act like the silent cat with stealthy moves to capture that one-second great moment with the snap of the camera. In my blood, right?

Nope. I was pretty much aimless all day.

I just sort of walked around, thinking, “What am I supposed to be looking for? What am I supposed to be doing?” I watched the parade. I took pictures of the kids with their flags and candy. We kept running into each other — me, for the perfect shot, them, for the candy.

I cried when the service groups came down Kingston Way – especially when the soldiers drove by, with the group reenacting the scene of service men raising the American Flag. The small, unspoken sadness of Sept. 11 returned. Several people I talked to said they, too, didn’t have a dry eye when the soldiers went by.

I laughed when the llamas walked by. These exotic animal farms crack me up to no end. Ohio is boring — we have cows. Not escaping, loose cows like Kingston, but just cows. And some horses.

The Nash Metropolitans — what nifty little cars. But where did they go? I tried finding them later at the corner of Central and Ohio, but they were nowhere to be found. I was really looking forward to hanging out with those cars. They remind me of the mini-cooper that I want so bad.

The motorcycles that drive by in parades always fascinate me. Since my step-father recently purchased a touring bike and I covered a “Ladies of Harley” event a couple weeks ago, I’ve been completely intrigued by American symbolism of the motorized two-wheeled vehicle.

After the parade, I headed over to Tiny Town. My aimless wandering continued but the weird feelings started sinking in as well as the development of the emotional small lump in my throat. They were the feelings that I had been trying to fight the past three weeks since I got here — homesickness.

It was bittersweet seeing all the kids running around and the parents lagging behind, enjoying the atmosphere of the simple life at that exact moment. I ran into some families I had interviewed and some of the really swell people I had met over the past few weeks. It reminded me that I lived here and was getting settled in. Nothing was really jiving there yet, and I was starving, so I headed over to my first Kingston’s Farmers Market. Thanks to the Nice Noodles stand, I had some deliciously spicy Thai to get my spirit going again. The Spectrum Drummers were on and were gathering a good crowd. My camera spied the young 19-month-old trying to play along with an unused drum that was as tall as his small two-foot frame.

My editor had given me some pointers and things to look out for while covering one of these festivals. I wasn’t finding anything close to those ideas, but I also knew I was trying too hard. Nothing ever comes when you’re trying. And that darned lump in my throat was getting bigger.

As I walked around some more, my confidence grew some and I became a little more daring, as opposed to the funk I was in earlier, darting in on people to get their names for photos and chatting it up for some conversation with a human being. Recognized some faces from work. It was nice to see familiar faces. I also knew that a year from now, I’ll probably recognize half the faces at next year’s festival, from understanding how this community works and how much I’ve learned already. That was comforting.

I headed back to Tiny Town and found the place buzzing with a young care free spirit. Captured the wild expressions of kids’ faces coming down the slide, bouncing on the Tall Tiger, fighting their siblings or friends on the American Gladiator-like platform. I even got a hug from the little girl whose father I interviewed for my first story. She reminded me of my little sister when we were younger.

But aimless wandering set in again. I walked around again, trying to find the Nash Metropolitans with no luck and headed back over the Kingston Market and Music Festival. At this point, I wasn’t even taking pictures anymore and that emotional lump in my throat was really bothering me, realizing it was ready to burst any second. I walked away from the market and over to the marina to try and write some of my story for today’s issue. I tried to describe the new North Kitsap Fire and Rescue boat that drifted in front of me. Then my attention was drawn to a family in a nearby boat. Gee, that boat looked like the one my dad had about 10 years ago. Then I remembered the summers we spent on that boat on the Ohio River, spending the night and waking up to the fog on the river. Drinking Tang and eating the 99 cent cinnamon rolls that we picked up from the convenience store for breakfast. Listening to David Sanborn and fishing for catfish.

I decided to move on.

I thought ice cream would help. It always helps. So, I went to the Ground Zero stand and bought the biggest ice cream cone — a waffle cone with double dips of chocolate ice cream. I don’t even really like chocolate ice cream, much less eat it. But it reminded me of my mom and her love for chocolate.

Then it all hit me.

So, I found the alley between the businesses on right side of the main drag, sat down, ate my waffle cone and sniffed and snuffed with my ice cream napkin. I felt absolutely ridiculous. A 23-year-old journalist, crying over ice cream, while on the job covering a Fourth of July festival, all while missing her family some 3,000 miles away. Felt completely stupid and pathetic. It made sense, but yet it didn’t.

I guess I don’t want to admit to my family that I miss them and that I’m sad about it. A part of me doesn’t have a reason to. I’m having a great time here in North Kitsap. I leave the office every day with a new reason why I’m glad to be here. A simple reason is all it takes. From a great interview to friendly banter with my co-workers to learning something new about the area. And I’m grateful and proud of everything I’ve learned and accomplished so far and the fantastic people I’ve met.

But, as it has built up the past few weeks and as much as I’ve tried to fight it, that whole importance of family issue has sunk in. Why I fight it, I don’t know. It’s sort of part of who I am, but also just the transition of moving across the country and not wanting to feel that sadness of missing family and friends. Thankfully, the charm and spirit of the peninsula has taught me that valuable lesson that it’s okay to miss everyone.

So, when the family reads this online, yeah, I’m a little homesick. I’ll never admit it to them. And they know that. But I’ll be okay. Things are just fine. And the Fourth of July turned out okay.