I spent so much time trying to figure out if I was coming or going home, I almost forgot how it had felt to come all the way from New York to my mother’s apartment in Florida and not see her. For four days, my sisters and I had removed the last of her belongings. When we left, even the white carpets had been scrubbed clean of any trace of her. One less place in the world to come home to.
As my first flight was finally landing, I got a text: the connecting flight to home had been cancelled. Agents at the American Airlines help-desk informed me it would be three days before a seat was available on a flight anywhere near my home. That’s when I really became unhinged. Directionless, I wandered Philadelphia Airport’s terminals among all the other untethered passengers scrambling to find their ways home. I phoned a sympathetic friend.
“Hop on a Greyhound,” she said. But there were no buses until the next day, and having already invested nine hours into journeying home, I balked at the thought of a long bus ride. I didn’t want to leave the airport. Yet, camping out an unknown number of days and nights on stand-by to fly would be too grueling. From her computer, my friend booked me a hotel room, downtown, near the Greyhound station.
Going home or coming home? Maybe the difference is between where your physical body is and where your heart is. Maybe it’s the direction you’re moving, in relation to home. Whatever, home seemed to disappear ever farther away as I hugged my suitcase in the taxi to town, and then lumbered down endless carpeted hallways to a room that would serve as home for the night. And going home early the next morning on that Greyhound, every mile of the 235 miles between Philadelphia and Ithaca, every little town we stopped in to let people off to their homes, every hour of the eight-hour ride was painted over with thoughts of what I was coming home to: my dog, my friends, my cozy bed, a snowstorm, the freezer filled with tamales, the horn that hadn’t been played in days….
“Let’s make a toast—To coming home,” friends said, over dinner that night. Sigh.
What’s the difference between going home and coming home? What is home anyway?