There’s no place like home (but where my heart calls home surprised me)

I made it through my whirlwind flights, drives, shopping, celebration and flights again. I’ve been back for a day or two, actually, but I’ve been too tired to put my brain to use.

Here’s a recap of my trip, in case you care:

December 19-20: Overnight flights from Bakersfield to San Francisco to Houston to Raleigh. I may have slept 20 minutes during the whole trip.

December 20: Family time in Raleigh, after picking up a rental car. Mama L and my mom took me out to eat, and I went to see my brother at work. I was so punchy I couldn’t stop giggling. Oh, and I got to sleep that night on an airbed on the floor next to my mom’s bed, which felt like childhood. (She was sleeping in the 6-year-old nephew’s bed.)

December 21-22: Drove to Williamsburg, VA, to meet up first with my “sister” (the one with the 5-year-old) and then with one of my best friends in the world. My sister and I went to the outlets, then to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in 80-degree, humid weather, then crashed at a hotel. Then I met my bfff for lunch and another trip to Christmas Town in the cool rain. I drove back late on the 22nd and crashed on the airbed again.

December 23: My parents’ anniversary, which meant a day of shopping and errands with my mom, a lot of crying and remembering. This was a really tough day for all of us, and it’s hard to even think about.

December 24: Sudden realization that I’d forgotten to get stocking stuffers for the 12 family members with whom I was celebrating Christmas — so super shopping spree with my mom, then the weirdest Christmas Eve service I’ve ever attended in life. I’m talking a preacher who likened General Pickett’s son being born to Jesus’ birth, then a woman dressed like Santa who sang Silent Night in German. I seriously searched for potential weapons in the sanctuary (the Christmas ornaments seemed likely) and scoped the exits, because I was the “darkest” person in the whole church.

December 25: Christmas! That meant watching 13 people (including me) open each gift, one at a time, until we’re all out of presents. Yep, it took hours. Then Christmas dinner, then a double-feature of Frozen (BEST. MOVIE.) and Catching Fire.

December 26: Lunch, coffee and a mani-pedi with my brother. My brother has size 14 feet and had never had a pedicure before. The woman cheese-grating his feet was holding a foot almost half her size in the air while he giggled like a child and tried very hard not to kick the nice lady. (Quote of the day: Being a girl is WEIRD.) Then I played video games with my nephew until I literally saw gold stars and had to crash. Mom went home, so I upgraded from the airbed to the bed. I slept a long time.

December 27: Frantic packing, then a late-night flight from Raleigh to Houston to Bakersfield in tiny planes. Then a cab ride to my house, during which the cabbie asked me whether I thought dogs have souls. (Of course they do.)

So there you have it. In a week’s time, I saw my family, two of my best friends and my favorite amusement park. I basked in the love of those around me, laughed, slept, enjoyed myself.

And you know what? I didn’t feel at home at all. In fact, from the moment I got on the plane to head west, I felt something settle inside me. It’s not that I didn’t adore my time with family and friends — I wouldn’t trade it for anything — but the east coast just isn’t where my heart feels right. I guess that’s a good thing, considering I live on the west coast now. But I’m still surprised how quickly I’ve adjusted to California as my home.

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