I’ve been away from home for ten weeks. Upon entering my house, I feel as if I have stepped into the plot of a science fiction movie. I have spent the last two months adventuring through the Northwest, but here in Arizona, my life remained frozen in time. I am surrounded by evidence of this phenomena- pictures my sons drew hanging by magnets on the refrigerator, the pajamas I wore the morning of our departure waiting in the hamper to be laundered.
I have imagined this moment from the day I left- what it would feel like to return home. Sometimes I imagined it with relaxed curiosity, other times with pained longing. I have never been on a trip longer than a week. As a creature dependent on routine, this experience is completely novel.
When I moved to Arizona from Colorado, I never believed it would become my home. A wave of heat hits me as I exit the doors of Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. I find myself wanting to sprint into the sunlight. I feel like a crazed, sun-starved lunatic. I want to rip off my clothes, and splash it all over my skin as if I am taking a bath. But my sun-bathing will have to wait at least one more night, as my arrival is timed just as the day is fading.
My friend, Aimee, arrives to pick me up from the airport. I have always appreciated not having to pay for a taxi, but her kindness extends beyond a simple favor. An eternity has passed since I have conversed with an actual friend, someone who knows me beyond a few random sentences exchanged at a playground. As I place my suitcase in her trunk, I notice the bags also occupying the space. She came with gifts- beer for me, milk for my sons, pumpkins for us all to decorate together. Those simple items take on a whole new meaning coming from a friend who knew I’d want them (particularly the beer) but would be too tired to make a stop at the store.
I open my front door. If my arms were somehow capable, I would wrap them around my entire house. MY house, my things. I hate to be attached to material goods, but walking inside my door feels like walking inside my own mind, my heart. I painted the walls that color of green called “asparagus.” I found and framed the album covers adorning the space in the living room. My grandmother’s cookie jar sits atop my bookshelf, a painting once belonging to my mother hangs over my bed. Artwork created with my sons and husband rests next to our dining room table. This place is me, us, through and through.
Luxury appears in the form of space. I have spent two months admonishing my sons not to run or jump or yell in the apartment for fear of disturbing the neighbors below. I don’t know if they remember that the rules did not apply here, or if they somehow instinctively know the environment has changed. Whatever the reason, they tear through the house with joyful abandon. What was once pristine is a colorful, peace-filled mess in a matter of minutes.
The evening ends, and I make my way to my bedroom. I have trouble sleeping. I am exhausted, but the comfort of being in my own bed proves too intoxicating. I want to roll on the pillows and smell the sheets, read my book and place it on my nightstand. Slumber finally comes, but I am awoken by a sudden sound- my son’s footsteps as he runs down our hallway. He bids me good morning, and climbs onto my bed. He jumps from the edge and lands on the floor with a loud thump. I smile. We are home for a week. For at least the next seven days, he can run and jump and thud to his hearts’ content, and the only words he will hear from me are “let me see that again.”