Coming Home or Going Home?

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops coming home versus going home to a predicted snowstorm.When my first flight, out of Fort Lauderdale, was announced delayed, I became obsessed: Would I be coming home that day? How could I possibly not be going home?

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?

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4 thoughts on “Coming Home or Going Home?

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I love the image of the Labyrinth leading to the front door. I’m sorry your mother’s death is hard–and of course it’s hard. She was an anchor for you since you were born. Traveling often leaves me feeling I’ll never get to my destination. The cluelessness of being deaf makes it worse because if I get screwed up in an airport, I can’t hear what the agents are telling me to do. I haven’t traveled much this year but that may change with the cochlear implant sound that goes on in a few weeks. I’ve had those cancellations at Newark where they tell me they can fly me to Ithaca or Elmira in 2-3 days. I freaked. I called someone who told me to get a bus and made sure a cab was waiting for me at the bus terminal in Ithaca. You got there/here with a deepened sense of friendship and home in what you’ve created for yourself in Ithaca.

    This place in Hector has been the only place that felt like home since 1972. I’m stuck like glue.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I am so excited for you about those cochlear implants. I hope it makes a big difference for you. It will also give me hope that something can actually be done to aid peoples’ hearing as I’ve seen too many folks who aren’t happy with the results of their hearing aids. My mother spent thousands of dollars on the darn things and they never seemed to help her. So I just have this very negative feeling that when it’s my turn to get hearing aids, I’ll be in the same sorry predicament she was.
      Glad to hear that you’re so attached to your place in Hector. Home is home and one is lucky to see one’s home as beautiful or empowering or cozy or whatever keeps one happily there. I’ve lived in a few places or conditions where I didn’t feel at home. Very sad. Very depressing. Better to love your home.

  2. Lucy Bergstrom

    Hi Robin,
    I’m sorry to hear you had such trouble getting home after you latest trip. Funnily enough, I had trouble in the opposite direction, as I traveled from my daughter’s cozy home to my mother’s in Philadelphia! The bus I had a ticket for never came, it had been canceled! So I took alternative busses and got to Philadelphia. at midnight. Yes, we have many homes…as I spent time with Mom, I looked nostalgically around her apartment thinking, “Is this the last time I’ll be here?” She is 97, after all.
    Home is a concept of belonging to a place, isn’t it? Certainly when it’s our mothers’ homes, we belong there by right of birth and by the strong ties we have to this basic person in our lives. A mother is like an anchor. So you were feeling untethered on your way “home”, that’s for sure. Now you have to be your own mother, something I have been working on for years! And I don’t just mean in the “Sit up straight” sense, but in the “being my own anchor” way.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yeah, Lucy, I think I’m discovering this. Right now it seems to be making me even more un-anchored, in response to all that’s going on. Almost like I’m fighting the idea that the only mother in the family close by now is myself. I just want to be a kid for a while longer. Maybe it’s the Marika in me. Maybe I’m angry that I can’t simply carry on like Marika, that I have to face the fact that I’m The Mother now and part of me has to act responsibly. Whatever is going on in my head, it is immobilizing at times. I find myself at odds with going with the flow, and being strong and responsible. What kind of a reliable anchor can I possibly be like this?


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