Monday, January 08, 2007

Home again, home again

I am back at home in Charlotte. But, then again, not quite.
Not quite back in the right time zone.
Not quite back emotionally yet either.

On line at the airport in Madrid to check my suitcase, I stood behind two women who were trying to change their seating assignments. The process was taking a while as questions and answers were volleyed back and forth over the countertop. I stood waiting my turn, looking around at the terminal, reminding myself of my resolution to live fully in each moment.

Terminal 4 of Madrid Barajas Airport is huge. Colorful. Architecturally interesting. Across from the front of the terminal is the remains of the parking deck that was destroyed by the previous week's bomb. The entire front of the terminal itself is now under repair as most of the huge glass panels were broken as a result of the bomb.

There I stood. Looking around. Giving thanks for the absolutely fantastic time I'd had in Spain. Missing my Spanish friends even though I hadn't left the country yet.
Giving thanks that so many lives were spared when the bombing happened.
Praying for the families of those whose lives were lost.
Wondering how many of the people checking into the flight were coming to the US for the first time.
Wondering how many were coming for business and how many for pleasure.
Thinking about the phone calls I needed to make once I'd passed through security.
Not looking forward to having to take off my belt and my jewelry, take my computer out of my backpack, and hoping I hadn't left any spray perfume bottles or lotion bottles in my carry-ons.
In other words, I was doing my usual mental gymnastics whenever I stand in line at an airport.

At that point, my thoughts were interrupted by the words of one of the women in front of me. She turned around and looked at me with a certain amount of frustration on her face, shrugged her shoulders, and said, "We'll be home soon." I assumed that she was referring to the process of seat assignments being more efficient here in the States. I smiled.

I didn't know what to say to her. I didn't think it would be appropriate to point out to her that Spain is the place where I feel most at home. I didn't want to go into the discussion of how much freer we can feel in our lives if we accept the fact that wherever we are at any given moment is home. Plus I couldn't imagine what made her assume that Miami and the USA was indeed my home. But whatever...

My body is back at home in Charlotte. But my mind and my thoughts are scattered, still wandering up and down the streets of La Coruna, the passageways of museums in Madrid, and the hallways of the Hotel Osuna. I am still wandering the illuminated streets awaiting the arrival of the Three Kings with their gifts. I am seeking to follow the star that led them to the King of Kings. I am walking and laughing with Antonio as we bought presents for 16 people in two days - one of the occupational hazards of being the head priest in his Jesuit community. I am sitting in the church listening to his homily on following the example of those wise kings as they sought and followed the star that led them to the Savior. I am holding baby Alvaro in my arms and rocking him to sleep. I am sitting on top of my suitcase as I tug at the zipper pull, hoping the zipper won't break in the cargo hold of the plane.

I am enormously grateful for the traveling mercies that were poured over me on my journey.

I am grateful for the prayers, the email, and the phone messages from friends who wished me well on my journey.

I am grateful for Steve's excitement for me as I went on the trip and his support for me through the entire ordeal. Rare is the man who encourages his wife to travel, to get away alone, and to spend several days with a male friend she has known for nearly 18 years.

I am grateful that we have the financial, relational, and emotional resources to make these trips possible for me. I truly don't know how I would survive and thrive in my life without frequent solo getaways. Many people I know would never dream of taking such a trip alone, especially as women. I am exactly the opposite; without regular stints of solitude, I am unable to live my life with any joy or true enjoyment.

Antonio and I talked about our mutual love for solitary times. To sneak away. To be disconnected from everyone and everything that is familiar. He made an excellent point: our solitude is possible only because we are never truly alone. I know that I have a husband, children, and friends awaiting my prompt return. He has his Jesuit community, his family, and the people of his church who love him and long for his return. He said that the saddest people he knows and deals with are those who have no one who looks forward to seeing them, no one with whom they can share their troubles, and no one who wonders where they are and how they are doing when they are gone. That is a solitude, a loneliness that is unfathomable to those of us who are loved.

I smiled to myself sometimes as I thought that no one who knows me knew where I was: on a Madrid subway, in a shop, at a restaurant, on a walk, in a museum. I was alone. Anonymous. Unrecognized. But then again, I knew that I was surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, seen and unseen, that I was loved and thought of, being prayed for and missed.

I am back in Charlotte.
But if home is where the heart is,
if home is where the heart is most comfortable and most at rest,
then I am back in Charlotte, but I miss home.

(Live the contradictions, Gail. Live the questions. Live it. Breathe it.)

So much still to ponder.
To process.
To write about.


Giovanna said...

i so resonated with your post... the need to go away and be filled by beautiful places, solitude and dear friends. i hope i meet someone who understands that, as you have. thanks for writing, as usual. happy new year to you and your family!

Kelly said...

Home is where ever I am... That is a concept I can't remember living without but only recently put words to. As I travel, i constantly refer to home not as the place that I have left but whatever place I happen to be sleeping that night is. Last night I was "home" in my apartment here in TX after a bad day that seemed like it would never end I "ran into" my dad online and i told him... "I've had a bad day and I wish I were home". His response was "well aren't you in TX". I had to clarify and say "no no I want to e home with the family". His response "you have too many homes". I disagree I'd say you can never have enough... and until heaven we aren't really ever "at home" yet.