My Christmas present this year was a trip to California.
Gavin and I took a late afternoon flight on December 12th. We watched the sun set over Nashville as we circled the city before heading west.
Seven hours later, 1800 miles and two time zones away, I called to let my husband know that we’d arrived safely at John Wayne Airport.
“Honey, I just wanted to let you know that I’m home,” were the words that fell out of my weary mouth, an honest slip of the tongue that belied how deeply I have missed California.
We have lived in Tennessee for a year and a half. It doesn’t seem like that long. It seems like we arrived only a few months ago. Much of our first year rushed by in a blur of adjusting to new surroundings, a new lifestyle, a new job, and so on. If I thought about it too much, I felt overwhelmed by grief, for I had not only left my family and friends behind, but I’d left my sense of place, my sense of rootedness in the culture and geography of the only place I’d ever called home.
It is the irony of freedom that we step into choices and must face the pain of separation, the joy of new beginnings, the anxiety of the unknown.
When we decided that we were moving, I bolstered my resolve with positive thoughts of Tennessee – no income tax, my mother and brother and sister-in-law, cooler weather , fewer gangs. Much like emigrants about to leave their homelands must feel – that need to focus on the glorious new life waiting for them, that mythical gold lying on the shores of the new world – so I built a lovely illusion of a new life.
I knew this was mere illusion, that moving is hard. But people in general are strong. They adapt. Time passes. Wounds stop throbbing and slowly start to close. The scars always remain but the pain lessens.
It gave me great joy to throw my arms around my aging grandparents again, to see them take pleasure in their great-grandson’s two-year-old antics. Our brief six days in the Golden State meant that I didn’t have enough time to see all of my wonderful friends and family, but I had the privilege to commune with a few of them.
I savored real sushi and munched on Del Taco. I manuevered a tiny rental car on the frantic freeways, my white knuckles gripping the steering wheel. I took my son to the beach and let him feel the chill of the Pacific Ocean on his tiny feet and hear the thunder of its waves. I got all choked up when the winter clouds parted, revealing snow dusted mountains. God, I miss those mountains.
On the return flight, our plane swung wide over the Pacific Ocean as the setting sun glazed the world in orange and yellow and pink before circling around to head east. Hours later, past midnight local time, I felt relief to see the lights of Nashville finally come into focus as our plane slowly descended.
Gavin peered out the little airplane window, rousing from his long nap. “We’re getting off this plane and going to Gavin’s home now,” I reassured him. “Baby home?” he asked, just to make sure.
Yes, we were finally home.