I arrived back in Tulsa tonight and I was home.
That may seem obvious, but the truth is, it was never a given. Never a certainty. After four months in Italy, of which fifteen weeks were in Sicily where I felt so much at home, where I was repeatedly concocting plans to stay, I had no idea how I would feel once I touched ground in Tulsa. And if I’m really honest, I expected the worst.
As the plane began its descent over northeastern Oklahoma, I watched through the window. Green, green, and more green. “Wow, that’s really pretty,” I thought.
Then I stepped outside the airport and the humidity hit me. Ah yes, humidity. I’ve missed you and didn’t even know it. I like the way you feel. Like an old sweater, soft and musty and warm. Humidity definitely feels like home to me.
A friend came to pick me up, masked up for protection, and her standard poodle, Jolene, at her side. Is there any better welcome home than this? Not for me. A friend and her dog. And the humidity.
Another friend, who lives down the street, watched my place in my absence. She checked my mail and occasionally took my car for a spin. Knowing I needed to be in quarantine upon return, she picked up some groceries. And then, she did something I didn’t expect.
She left the porch light on. Like a beacon in the night. Nothing says welcome home like the soft glow of light. My home was glad to see me. She was waiting for me.
Homes have personalities. They are extensions of ourselves. They hold a psychic energy. Everything is energy, our homes included.
I opened the door and was greeted with a warm stuffiness. Not stale. Just the stillness of a home that has been closed. Waiting. Holding its breath.
It was time to get reacquainted. She was clean, cleaner than I had left her, or so it seemed. Like she had primped for me. I gently placed my bags in one corner, not wanting to be disruptive. Not wanting to break the moment. A bit like a first date. Respectful, slow, taking in the details. Not moving too quickly. My kitchen felt bare, but my refrigerator was full (thanks to my neighbor). A table lamp was on in the bedroom, but I wasn’t ready to go there yet. So, what to do now?
I made a Moscow mule.
Friends from Nashville stayed at my place three times during my absence, each visit while looking for a house to purchase. They left my home spotless. They even left new kitchen towels, hanging at my sink. I took my drink outside to call them. To thank them. What they told me turned out to be so much more – and better – than just the towels and clean floors.
I live in a simple, four-room duplex with a small and dated kitchen. No dishwasher and a sink that often backs up. A faucet that splashes. Drawers that stick from too many layers of paint. Windows that won’t open for the same reason. A kitchen floor that looks perpetually dirty. I have a nice tub, but the sink is old and pretty awful. The walls are painted grey, which I hate. (As in, I abhor, but the landlord won’t let me change.) But the hardwood floors are lovely. And the windows are plentiful. The bedroom is large and looks out into the backyard, fenced, just waiting for a dog. This place has character. After downsizing from a 3-bedroom home, this is really all I need these days. My furniture is old, mix-matched, and repurposed. So is my art. My rent is cheap and I park in a driveway, not a garage, but that’s better than on the street.
As I sat on my stoop (concrete stairs that are crumbling), with the ice in my glass melting, my Nashville friends told me about their stays. They loved being here, they said. Awesome accommodations, they insisted. They read my books. They used my printer. They cooked and used my pots and spices. Everyday, they were surprised by something new. A quote on a wall they had not seen before, another piece of art or photograph lumped in with so many others, some treasure perched on a shelf.
They told me how they’d sit on my front porch at night. How they would move the two non-matching chairs from the back to the front and watch the bunnies scampering in the grass. How they enjoyed the peacefulness of my street, the stillness of the evenings, the crickets, and an occasional car. Even talking with my neighbors. They loved being here, they said again. They really did.
And that love was the gift. The truly being here. Their appreciation for my quirky little no-fuss place. They liked her. They enjoyed hanging out with her. She felt comfortable. The companionship was easy. My house had become their friend.
Home is not just where we eat and sleep and shower. Home is where we live. Life happens in a home. A home needs life to sustain it. When our homes are really homes, they are alive. They have personalities. They reflect the relationships of the inhabitant(s). They thrive on life inside.
I arrived back in Tulsa tonight and I was home. Not because my things are here. Not because I have an address where I pay rent. I was home because my home was still alive. She had been cared for and appreciated. Fed, like a cat, in my absence. The food cooked and shared, the dreams dreamt in my bed, the music enjoyed – all strokes. She was still purring. Grateful for the attention.
Like any relationship, the more you give, the more you get back. This home, my Tulsa home, welcomed me, was as happy to see me as I was her, because she had been cared for. She was loved.
If my friends – from down the street and from Nashville – hadn’t attended to her in my absence, she would have felt differently upon my return. I would have felt differently. And She – my home – would have been different.
I miss Sicily. Absolutely. And I will go there again. Yet, right here and right now, undeniably, I am home.
This revelation of admiration seems significant. A declaration of love seems in order. I’ve decided to give her a name.
Everyone, meet Hermione.