I settled down into seat 34G, disappointed that I didn’t get the aisle. Well, I guess it was to be expected, considering I had only booked my flights from South Africa to the United States that same morning.
The 50-something woman who had scored the aisle seat next to me waited until she heard the click of the seatbelt between my fingers before she tried to break the ice. “So, are you headed home?” she asked innocently. Little did she know just how loaded those five words really were.
I paused. The hesitation was just a little too long. But I genuinely did not know what to say. “Well, I … um … I guess so. Well … no, not really. Um … I’m not sure.”
The poor woman probably wondered if I suffered from some type of mental illness. Sometimes I wonder the same myself. My soul stirred with emotional turmoil as I fumbled for a way to articulate the present reality.
“My mom died this morning,” I blurted out. There was simply no way to cushion the blow. “I’m from the States, but I’ve been living in Cape Town for the past nine years. And I got the call this morning that my mom died in Michigan. So, here I am.”
Was I going home? Technically, yes. Holland, Michigan, had been the only town I had lived in for the first 21 years of my life. But when I moved to Cape Town and married a South African, more than a handful of people urged me to stop referring to Michigan as “home.”
“You’re married now,” they said. “This is your home. You can’t keep calling that place your home, because you’re establishing a new home now.” They were quite adamant about the whole thing, so I made a valiant effort to catch my tongue before the word “home” slipped out in reference to my hometown.
Photo credit: epSos.de