In October, I was able to feel and experience each and every one of those things. In October, I was HOME. The months and weeks leading up to my visit home seemed to drag on and on. I couldn’t focus on any one thing without thinking about being home. I counted down the hours and minutes until I boarded that plane. I wanted to tell everyone in the airport that I was going HOME. Finally, after almost a year and a half away, I was going home.
The last few minutes of that flight from Atlanta were agonizing. I thought the plane would never land. Then it seemed to take years to find our gate. As soon as that plane door was open, I was off that plane and speed walking to the front of the airport. I may have body checked a few people on the way; I can’t be sure. The only thing on my mind was turning that last corner and seeing my family; nothing else in the world mattered at that time. When I finally did make it around that corner, I was overcome with emotion. I expected my Mom and Dad, maybe my best friends; but I had no idea what was in store for me. There, waiting for me, were so many people that I love. I may have had one of the largest welcoming parties the Wichita airport has ever seen. I laughed and cried and hugged, and laughed some more. I just couldn’t believe that I was HOME, that I was actually hugging my Nana, my aunts and uncles, my parents, my best friends. In that moment, I was on Cloud Nine. I still can’t believe that I had such an exciting welcome, and my heart still skips a beat when I think about everyone being there. I’m one lucky girl.
The first night at home was pure bliss. I didn’t do anything. I sat in my kitchen and talked, laughed, and joked around. I watched Wheel of Fortune. I ate chili. Various family members stopped by to chat. I took a hot shower. I watched TV with my parents. It was like any other night at home. I was relieved to find that nothing had changed too much. I could easily fall back into my role as daughter, niece, granddaughter, friend.
I found two underlying themes to my visit home: relief that nothing had changed TOO much, and excitement or confusion over the things that had. My friends were still the same people I left over a year ago, but they had also all changed so much. My family was still the same, but many things were different. I don’t know if I can fully describe how it felt to be home after being gone for so long. I saw the changes in people that no one else notices because they happen over time. I picked up on the differences in attitude or temperament of my friends and family. It was like I was in an alternate universe where everything was the same, yet different at the same time. I don’t think there are words to describe what it was like. It wasn’t a bad thing or a good thing; just different.
Despite the conflicting emotions about changes, my trip home was perfect and unforgettable. It made me realize just how lucky I am. I have a family that loves and supports me, and that will show up at the airport to surprise me. I have the kind of friends that people only ever dream of. I have a beautiful house full of love and laughter. I have friends that will fly halfway across the United States just to surprise me for the weekend. I have the friends that started bawling and showering me with hugs when they saw me for the first time, and the ones that jumped up and down with excitement. My best friends showed up at the airport to welcome me home, and my Budzillas were at my first Family Fest. I have a family full of people who will dress up in tux and pretend to be a taxi driver at the airport or come barreling to my house when they found out I was finally home. I have friends that changed their entire schedule just to be able to see me for a few minutes. I have friends whose families accept me as part of their own and who are an extension of my own family. I am the luckiest girl on the planet. If I didn’t already know all of this before, my trip home only made it more apparent.
I won’t bore you with all the details of my visit; just know that it was wonderful and perfect and tiring and fantastic and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Here’s looking forward to being home for good!
“The only life worth living is the one you’re passionate about.”