What does it mean to come home? What do you find when you’ve been away? What is home, anyway? Several months ago we left Moldova in Eastern Europe where we had lived happily for a year and half. We returned to our little house in the country in the US to await further adventures.
Upon arrival, we opened the door and entered the house. All was silent. It was cold. We brought in our suitcases, turned on the water, turned on the heat. Everything was in order. Everything was the way I had left it a few months earlier when on a quick check-up visit. (You’ll Never Know What You’ll Find When . . . ) The bed was made, there was food in the freezer.
Two days later we connected with the neighbors across the road who were happy to see the house “alive” again. They are the only ones we ever got to know in the few years we lived in this country neighborhood. We’d bought the house to have a base after years of living the expat life and not owning a house anywhere.
Yesterday I read through some of my stories from the time we lived in Ghana, West Africa, and found one about us returning to our house there after a mere two weeks away on a visit to the US.
Akwaaba! You Are Welcome!
We’ve been gone two weeks, but it seems longer. Stepping out of the plane is like entering a sauna. I love Ghana, but the weather is the pits.
As we arrive home, Steven, the night guard, opens the gate. He gives us a wide grin and asks how everybody is in our home village in America. Is everyone well? Our children? We tell him they are fine. Leah, our maid, who lives in our compound, comes out to help get our luggage in the house. She’s all smiles, happy to see us. Three-year-old Emilia comes rushing across the gravel in her bare feet and hurls herself at my mate.
“How are you?” he asks, waiting for the response he has taught her.
She sticks her thumb in the air. “Excellent!” she jubilates.
It’s good to be home.
The sun shines brightly the next morning – a new tropical day.
Ali, the gardener, arrives, rings the bell and shakes hands with us, his face beaming. “You are welcome!” he says with genuine delight. How was our journey, he wants to know. How is everybody in America? How are the parents? In good health? And the children?
Everybody is fine, we assure him.
After emptying my suitcases, the first thing to do is get in my little white KIA and go stock up on food. The vegetable mammies at the road-side market greet me as if I’ve been raised from the dead, their faces aglow with delight.
“Madame! You have come back! You are welcome!” Smiles all around. How are the people in my home village? Are my children well? And so on and so forth. We talk. We laugh. Then we pile the food in my basket. Pineapples and mangoes and bananas and paw paws. Onions and tomatoes and zucchini. After I pay, they throw in another pineapple and cucumber, as a dash.
The next morning we fall back into our routine and my man and I go for our morning walk. Halfway around we see Grandpa tottering toward us on plastic flip flops that are about to disintegrate. He is old and almost toothless. He finds us hilarious, always greeting us with amused chuckles. We see him every morning going in the opposite direction, but we don’t actually know who he is.
Overcome with joy, he stops moving when he catches sight of us and begins to talk in his incomprehensible laughing cackle, barely keeping his balance. Clearly, he has missed us.
“We have come back,” we tell him rather superfluously.
He offers us another stream of happy mumbles, leaning on his homemade cane, teetering precariously.
“Everybody is fine in our home village,” we assure him.
We wave and continue our walk, hearing his chuckles receding behind us.
It is good to be home.
Well, dear readers, that was home then. We are no longer there. We are here, which is America, where we have no cleaning lady, no gardener, and where no one in the supermarket knows me. They don’t ask me about the people in my home village, but they are friendly and wish me a nice day when I leave with my shopping bags full of apples and strawberries and broccoli and spinach.
Where will home be next year? We don’t know.
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Do you have any stories about home? Being home, coming home, feeling home?