As soon as the doors of the airport open to the world, I don’t feel the gust of warm air, but humid moisture wraps its blanket around me. As I wait, I hear the passing ya’ll and see men who don cowboy hats as a part of their everyday attire; I feel familiarity tickling my skin.
I am in Dallas again, a place I’ve always called home. As my daughter and I wait on the curb, I notice a man smoking a cigarette, something she notices too. “Momma, she says, is he putting fire in his mouth?” Her eyes look at me and I realize the weight she puts in my words. “He is smoking a cigarette. Let’s move over.” I hope my adult answer pacifies her question. This time I am saved from any further questions because she sees my sister’s car pull around the corner. The squeals and screaming echo throughout the airport corridor, my daughter is jumping, eager to give her aunt, also known as her best friend forever, a hug. She squeezes her tight, her embrace continuous and unrelenting.
I am quiet, my thoughts reflect on my daughter’s laughter. I smile, her sounds make me feel alive and I listen to how she banters back and forth with her aunt. In the last few years, I’ve had an ambivalent relationship to what I call home. I’ve focused on a single event, the fact that my father isn’t here anymore. And because of that, I’ve justified in my mind, home can’t really truly be home anymore.
I hear the laughter again. And it prompts me to think about all of the good events that have happened in this place. I was born in Texas in the same hospital as my daughter and my sister. My husband proposed to me in a small park about 20 minutes from my childhood home. We later got married about 20 minutes from where his family has a home. Sister, brother, grandparents, cousins and friends – they all still inhabit this place. I’ve celebrated many milestone moments in this home, everything from riding my bike to obtaining my driver’s license to graduating law school and working at my first “real world” job. There have been smaller moments too, eating dinner with my family at a local Mexican restaurant, ice cream runs at 9:30 p.m., and scrabble games on our living room floor.
All my memories of home, in the collective, have mainly been positive ones. But I forgot this. I discounted and disregarded so many good memories by focusing on one single event. The truth is, home has always been pretty good to me. I just forgot why for awhile.
We exit the car, my daughter holds her aunt’s hand in her grasp. My mom is waiting for her and she runs toward her grandma, and the laughter starts again.
Oh, to be home again.
What is your relationship to your childhood home? Has your definition of home evolved? How do you reconcile bad memories and good ones that happen in the same place?