Friday, August 16, 2013

Home Again. Whatever that means.

Our plane touched down with a hard thump a few hours ago in Amman, and I was immediately reminded of the time we hit the ground hard when we arrived in Armenia in 2001. Bart grabbed my hand back then and turned, laughing, to ask "what in the hell are we doing here?"

This time, of course, there was no Bart. Just me and the kids, navigating through customs and baggage claim before finding ourselves in the arrivals hall, scanning the crowd for a sign with our name on it. But the driver I'd hired wasn't holding a sign - he recognized us from our trip out, and waved us down joyfully. "Welcome home," he said as he took my suitcase and led us out of the hall. The girls grabbed both of my hands as we walked out into the dark dry night.

An ambulance crossed in front of us, lights flashing. Just as it passed by, a group of Jordanian musicians broke into raucous song behind us in the terminal. Still gripping my hand, Ainsley danced to the beat and swung her pigtails while Kyra speculated that maybe someone important was getting married in there.

We reached the car. While the driver loaded our luggage and the kids argued over who would sit where, I scanned the terminal for the ambulance. It had backed into a big double door, far from the crowd, and was either off-loading or on-loading a patient. A medevac?, I wondered idly. I watched as ambulance personnel scrambled under the flashing lights while the Jordanian musicians played on, unseen, somewhere in the terminal. I thought back to my own worst medevac, when my blood-soaked self was rushed to the airport via lights-and-siren ambulance and loaded onto a tiny medevac plane, somewhere in Central Asia, back in 2002, and I said a little prayer that whatever was happening in that ambulance wasn't nearly so traumatic or bloody.

Loaded in the car at last, we headed down the highway toward our house. The van driver chatted in Arabic on his cellphone, one hand gripping the wheel. A Mercedes barreled past, cutting off another car in a narrow miss. The second driver honked and began chasing the Mercedes down the road, weaving around traffic in a fit of Jordanian-style road rage.

We passed the darkened baseball field. Cars were lined up outside the fence, their occupants barbecuing and picnicking in the fields next to the roads, grills glowing in the night air as hijab-clad women chatted nearby. In an empty field just up the road, we saw several Bedouin tents clumped together, along with two UNHCR tents that had somehow made their way to Amman. Three camels were tethered outside the tents. Two kids with flashlights ran down the highway between us and the camels, heading toward the tents.

It was all so familiar, and yet so foreign, that I couldn't quite take it all in. One minute at a beach house in Spain, surrounded by family, the next on a dark highway in the middle east, still with my kids, but far from my sister, my brother, my parents, my husband.

We pulled up to the house and as I searched for my keys, Ainsley held two small paws up in the air, saying baobao, mama - that's her baby way of saying "pick me up" in Chinese. China - yet another place that holds my ghosts, that used to be home but has no meaning to the me of today.

I unlocked the door, and we were home at last. The refrigerator is empty, the suitcases are full. Laundry and shopping both call. I am exhausted. Yet here it is, 4 a.m., and I cannot fall asleep, thinking as I am of faraway places that used to be home, from California to Kazakhstan. I am missing my friends and my family all across the globe, and I am thinking of people I love who aren't with me, who can't be with me for all sorts of reasons big and small.

Yet I am home. The dog is snoring at the foot of the bed. All four of my babies are sleeping, dreaming dreams of beaches and cousins and sunsets, I hope. Whoever was on that ambulance is on her way to her fate, and those singers in the airport were no doubt paid for their services hours ago.

My brother's family is already stateside again. My sister leaves Spain in a few short hours; my parents in three days. My husband is across the border in faraway Baghdad, where so many people were killed in bombings today that it boggles the mind. How is it I allowed him to go there, when he really should be here, unpacking suitcases and helping with the laundry?

He should be here, because here is home. For now, anyway.

It seems I'm home.


Heather Dray said... [Reply]

((Hugs)) Wish I had some spectacularly uplifting words to share with you. I hope you can find some peace with those thoughts swirling in your head. I teared up reading this, my heart aching, remember those feelings about 'home' and goodbyes, and life going on even though our better half is far away in a dangerous place. ((More Hugs))

Nomads By Nature said... [Reply]

It is so strange having your heart in so many places (known and unknown) while your feet and eyes are in another. Sending hugs.

Hannelene said... [Reply]

I understand. Reminds me of a quote from a Jane Smiley book, where a character who has traveled extensively talks about being stretched thin, like a balloon filled with too much air. I think Bilbo Baggins talk about butter scraped over too much bread.

I'm feeling rather homeless right now... Our "home" is still in Cairo, but we are here, in limbo.

Please. Write your own stuff.