As great as vacation is, it is truly wonderful to be home. When you love your life, that’s the thing of it: every moment is a treasure.
Our plane touched down on Detroit tarmac yesterday in bright sun and humid-free air and I thought, home. We collected the bags and piled into the car and when the front door opened to a pile of mail, I knelt on the stone floor and breathed in the scent of home.
The children migrated quietly toward their familiar spaces. Rooms, books, beds, stuffed animals. I sifted through the mail, separated junk from what matters. No messages on the machine were that important (do we even need an answering machine anymore?).
Last night, I couldn’t put down the fourth book of my vacation (The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman) and so I read until midnight, heart racing to know the ending. And the ending was satisfying, as it always is.
Although I lived in Washington, D.C., for three years and it was the site of my first published poetry book, it was never home to me. A transient place built on ideals, everyone I met was coming from somewhere and eventually going somewhere else. No one rooted down deep. I found it lonely.
Of course, then I was lonely in life anyway and smack in the middle of my 20s. Late nights were loud and early mornings quiet, friends and bosses filled the in-between hours. What I remember best is the way the paperback covers of my books curled back in the humidity when I left the windows open.
Michigan is home. Here I have roots. History. Family. The storytelling of my city is also my story. My dad drove me through the neighborhoods where he was a boy, pointing out the three houses (one now a vacant grassy lot) that held his childhood.
My great-grandfather, a butcher, held court in Eastern Market, family history interlacing with that of the city. My paternal grandfather delivered milk up and down the streets of our city.
In Washington, we chatted with one of the farmers market vendors in Dupont Circle and he asked how things were in Detroit. “We’re hardy,” my husband told him. “We bounce back. We rebuild. That’s Detroit.”
We work with our hands. We love the land and sky. We make things move.
Coming home is more than arriving on an airplane and unpacking the clothes. (Check!) It’s more than knowing the streets I drive to buy the groceries. (Check!) It’s more than waving to my neighbor as I walk home from voting (check!) and stop to talk at his open car window (we are always in our cars – check!) and inquire about the health of his family.
According to Wikipedia: home is a place of residence or refuge. The geographical area where a person grew up or feels they belong. Native habitat. Perceived but have no physical location. A mental state, emotional, comfort.
What makes a vacation so wonderful is the sense of adventure, the exploration, the being in a different setting than we normally are. The sense of discovery, too, and the way moments extend like fingers to hold you in their grasp.
And also what makes a vacation is the long-held anticipation and the eventual bittersweet end. We wouldn’t know bad if everything was good and vice versa. It is context and concept, pit and roll.
I couldn’t live on an endless vacation. It has to finish at some point, and I have to come back to the place where I roost, the place whose corners and crevices are mine to share and to hold close. I love my life more because of having left it for a while.