My flight home left at an ungodly hour. I remember thinking, “Wwwwwwhhhhhyyyyyy?” when I whacked my alarm clock at around 4:00, climbed into the car half an hour later and entered the airport a little after 6:00. Hans had driven me to the airport, kissed and hugged me goodbye at the drop-off. “Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Sweetie,” he told me. “I’ll miss you.” I’ll miss you, too, I breathed into his coat. Not wanting to jet across the Midwest (for I’m quite afraid of flying), I was hesitant to let go. As he attempted to walk back around to his side of the car, I held his hand and jack-knifed him into another hug. “Go,” he said, squeezing me. “Don’t cry.” I furiously blinked, willing my eyes not to let go. “Bye,” I said quietly, waving.
Inside the airport, I checked in, stood in line and waited for security to scan me. After having taken a full-on X-ray of my internal organs, the guards still insisted on patting me down. “Ummm, okay,” I said, stepping aside. My shoes were off, my back cold from having taken off my sweatshirt. I wore only undergarments, jeans and a camisole. What they hell do they think I’m hiding? I asked myself, my ID in hand. Luckily, the female guard barely grazed me as her hands passed my arms, shoulders, back and thighs. “You’re fine,” she said matter-of-factly. “Go ahead and get your stuff.”
After a racing to catch a connecting flight in Minneapolis, I settled down in my seat for the last one-hour plane ride to Omaha. It was still early in the morning; the sun was rising, and fog formed on the tarmac. I leaned my head back, placed on arm on one of the armrests. “God, please guide…”
My usual ritual for flying.
An hour later, I strolled through the terminal at Omaha, eager to see my mother. The unexpected security requirements, the anxiety, the stress, the threat of lost luggage—none of it mattered once I saw her. Recognizing me, she pulled a roll of yellow paper out of her pocket and stretched it out. “WELCOME HOME, DAWN!” it proclaimed with sparkles and glitter and swirls and letters.
I smiled and laughed. “You made me a sign? Oh, gosh, that’s awesome!” I stepped up to her and grinned uncontrollably. “Hi, mom!” I said gleefully, giving her a hug. She embraced me harder than I expected, clearly eager to see me. “I’m not letting you go back there,” she gushed, dragging me by the shoulders.
“I know, I know,” I sighed. “You say that every time.”
“And every time I mean it.”
A year later, I still hear those words from my mom. In fact, I heard them the other night, when I told her that I wanted to come home for Thanksgiving. “No, you really shouldn’t,” she instructed me over the phone.
“Why not? I want to. I need to. You have no idea how much I miss things here. It’s not like I’m at school where I have friends and fun and schoolwork. Here, there is nothing. I have found nothing. I would rather go home and spend Thanksgiving there. I know you’re worried about the car, about it getting back and forth, but I need a break. I would really like to come home.”
“If you come home, I’m not letting you go back.”
I laughed. “Mom, you’ve been saying that for three years.”
It is hard for me to say the word “homesick,” because I’m honestly not sure if I am. I miss my house, yes, and Omaha, but I miss my mom more. It was with her that I would carve pumpkins and hand out treats to neighborhood children, with her I would watch Peanuts specials and decorate. It was with her that I would decorate Christmas cookies, go shopping, sing carols and contemplate yet another theme for the Christmas tree.
I am surviving, true; and I don’t think about home constantly. I miss my mom, but I think what I am truly homesick for is college life. A life of spontaneity and rendezvous, of late nights and movies and bowling and wine-and-cheese parties.
That, and I always had the option of going home.
For Halloween this year, I went out and purchased a few bags of candy, eager to greet trick-or-treaters. The apartment complex offered door hangers and decorations to attract them and encouraged residents to participate.
At 8:00, I took the bowl of candy into my own hands and began nibbling on Twix and Snickers bars.
At 10:00, I started to cry.
Hans, sensing my heartbreak, came over from the couch and hugged me. “I’m so sorry no one came,” he said, squeezing me.
“It’s so much more than just that,” I wheezed through sobs.
“I know, I know,” he repeated, rocking me. “I know. I know this isn’t your house. I know this isn’t your home. I know I’m not your mom, I know I’m not your friends. I know your cat isn’t here. I know we don’t have television. I know that there are so many things here that you can’t do.” He rocked me, hugged me. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
I finally pulled away from him, my face damp with hot tears that still flooded my eyes. “I didn’t think I would miss home this much.” I shook my head, glancing around at the wall, the ceiling, the wall, the floor, the wall. I sucked in a breath of air. A quiet pause, then a sigh. “I didn’t know.”
In the six weeks I have been here, I have been anything but happy. The threatening cloud of unemployment has hung about me, much like the dark, menacing ones do to characters in depression commercials. I’m worried about money, about loans and phone bills. Even our short jaunt to Georgia was stressful because we knew what awaited us back in Greenfield—an empty apartment and a tortuous inner city job.
When thinking of how to address our current issues, I debate over how much to share. I want to be honest, but I do not want to be hyperbolic, either. Truly, our troubles are no worse than others’—there are people, like myself, who are unemployed. There are people who dislike their jobs, who are unable to pay bills. There are people more desolate and discouraged than I, which is precisely why I don’t ask for sympathy. I ask only for your patience in reading my thoughts, which are clearly frustrating and circular. However, I do not wish to fake happiness, to post only the “good things.” This, to me, is a journal; in the end, I want to remember my honesties, my struggles and triumphs, my thoughts and musings.
In other words, I am frustrated with what I have been dealt at this moment. I can’t tell you what will happen tomorrow, next week, or in two months. I can tell you, however, that there is still many a thing to be grateful for, starting with those whom I love.
I could not have asked for a better mother, one who makes “Welcome Home” signs and can still make me laugh voraciously from 600 miles away. I could not have asked for a more inspirational and loving brother.
I could not have asked for better friends. They hug me without question, offer baked goods and couches and provide me with comfort and entertainment, both virtual and personal. They know me—know that I hate onions, love Oreos, am never without ChapStick and have the potential to become a crazy cat lady.
I could not have asked for a boyfriend, who, after his worst days at work, never fails to compliment me. I, hair uncombed and clad in sweatpants, receive a hug and the words “You’re so beautiful.”
I could not have asked for a better home to go to for Thanksgiving—for last year, for this year, for any year. In the end, it doesn’t really matter if that home is in Iowa, Indiana, Australia, Timbuktu. It’s not important if I’m unhappy with work or money; all that really matters is if I’m happy with those I’m with.