Coming home | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

“I’m coming home.” It sounds like the person speaking can hardly get the words out fast enough; like there is a breathless anticipation of good things. It tells me that the traveler is done with roaming. There is a time for traipsing about, and a time to come home. When I set down my bags after a long trip, I have no intentions of picking them up again, at least not right away.

Erma Bombeck wrote the book “When you start looking like your passport photo, it’s time to go home.” I don’t wait that long.

The excitement of travel wears off earlier for me these days. I get tired of living out of a suitcase. I hate to see my clothes in desperate need of an iron. Not even the vision of another French toast bagel with cream cheese at Panera can entice me. I miss my sigidilyas sa gata on hot rice; shampoo, foot massage and the works at Zeny’s; the call of a taho vendor; meeting with my life group, the sound of rain on the roof.

Today I start my annual visit with family and friends in the United States. By the time you read this, I will be getting ready to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Las Vegas, en route to visit children, grandchildren and my one and only sister. I can’t wait to see them all again.

Every year, I bring out my luggage to air a couple of weeks before the trip. They look tired. But why get new ones? The airlines batter and bash them anyway. I always have second thoughts about going on yet another vacation. Then I ask myself, why not? While the good Lord sees it fit to have me gallivant, I shall do so.

But even as I get in my car for the airport, I can taste the sweetness of coming home.

Because of security issues, one spends more time now at airports. I don’t mind. I enjoy watching people.

A man returns from far away and is welcomed by the woman who waited; children run frantically into the eager arms of a parent; a shy sweetheart loses her poise, squeals and jumps at the sight of her returning lover. My writer’s mind immediately gets into gear. I imagine the back story.

Scenes of soldiers returning from battle evoke strong emotions from any spectator. We don’t even know them, but are moved to tears.

Sad farewell

Just as emotional are the sad farewells of men and women in uniform who, obedient to orders, stand beside overstuffed duffel bags ready to help keep the peace. There is sorrow in their faces. Maybe even fear? Only God knows when and if they will return.

Homecoming. Reunions. How true what American theologian Tyron Edwards said: “Every parting is a form of death as every reunion is a type of heaven.”

To our weary overseas Filipino workers, home means far more than it does to an ordinary traveler. In pursuit of a better life, they leave their homes and families without counting the cost.

“Paguwi,” a beautiful collaboration by Louie Ocampo and Joey Ayala, is dedicated to our OFWs. The song moves me to tears every time. (Nothing to do with the singer, I promise.) One line eloquently describes coming home:  “Ako’y sisigaw at hahalik sa lupa.”

Several years ago, I spent time in Manhattan with a very high-profile personality. We stayed up many nights into the wee hours of morning, watching the sun come up behind the gargoyled dome of the Chrysler Building, talking about life; about mistakes we made, about friends both faithful and untrue, and people we loved and lost.

Her world had crashed all around her, and perhaps in a miniscule way by comparison, so had mine. She lost everything. But it didn’t seem to bother her too much. What broke her heart was that she could not go home.

But I could. Although I walked around with a dark cloud over my head, I had it much better than she did. Any time my heart desired, all I had to do was pack my bags, swallow my pride and come home. Packing was the easy part.

I have heard it said that “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”

I don’t remember ever wanting to run away from home, but it did cross my mind when I was about 8. I thought I wanted to live at my friend’s huge house with many bedrooms where she was allowed to do whatever she pleased. She even had an imported English governess.

Opposite ends

They had a long dining table. Her father and mother sat at opposite ends. No one said a word. You heard only the sound of silverware on bone china. I didn’t like that very much.

At home we ate at a round table, and although Papa was a stickler for table manners, mealtime was always fun. There was laughter and conversation. Their family was complicated. Mine was simple, happy. They had a mansion. We had a home!

Not too long ago, I read a story about a California man who wanted to sue his 90-year-old mother because she would not sign papers to sell her house where she lived all alone. To be fair, the man had her best interests at heart. He had picked out a posh nursing home where she would get the best care money could buy. The mother refused, saying: “This has been my home for over 70 years. Nobody tells me where I must live or where I should die.” Last I heard the lady got her way, and the case never went to court.

I ask myself, would I have done the same? I truly can’t answer that. Perhaps I can’t even imagine it because I am blessed with a roof overhead, and surrounded by children (and grandchildren) who are present, but not underfoot; who are involved but do not meddle and who love me unconditionally, warts, freckles and all.

And then there’s my cousin in Australia who called her son one morning and told him to take her to a nursing home in the countryside where she had signed a lease on a unit for herself. She had furnished and decorated it with her favorite mementos. “You can come visit any time,” she told him as she saw him to the door. He could do nothing but sadly accede to her desires. His mother had chosen her last home.

Home means different things to different people. It could be a person, perhaps someone you loved. Maybe a place; somewhere you left in search of something new and exciting. Home might even be romantic love to one, or lost emotions to another. Or the people and places we remember that we miss.

Whatever it may be to you, I believe home means feeling safe, finding peace. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like it.

In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Where we love, is home—home that our feet may leave, but never our hearts.”