Home is where I arrive after 12 hours of driving and there's a pizza party happening. Mom and Marshall and George and Christel and Jonathan and Kim and we're all talking loudly over one another because there's so much to say and share and catch up on that none of us can decide whether to listen or talk so we do both at once. Home is where my two-and-a-half-year-old nephew Brian hides behind his parents' legs before he gets over his shyness and talks to me. ("Thanks for cooking, Aunt Sheila!" he says three times during breakfast.) Home is playing Set with Matt and Julia, and seeing Julia paint Aunt Donna's nails, and hearing from Mary about the Christmas party they had with their neighbors last night, and eating the leftover apple cake from the party, and catching up on Penn State football with Mike. Home is watching Jeff play with his new camera flash, which works great because you can't take a bad picture of Brian anyway. Home is going thrift shopping with Mom and Sylvia and running into Kim at Goodwill. Home is the five-days-later Christmas where I try to convince everyone we should do one gift at a time but I compromise and say two and Debi takes over handing out gifts and almost forgets to open her own. Home is hanging out with my brother-in-law and godfather Craig who would rather be building something but he's content to be at a party for a few hours. He gets a Lowe's gift card for Christmas. Home is watching Susie run around and marveling at the effect Ken's voice has on her (we try for several minutes to make sure she doesn't eat the balloons that Kim is blowing up into animals but in the end the only thing that works is Daddy saying gruffly, "Susie, take that out of your mouth!" from across the room.) Home is seeing how amazingly grown-up my beautiful , newly married nineteen-year-old niece looks and wishing we could also see her husband, who is in Iraq. Home is seeing Ben and Vicki for the first time since Pearl's birth (not quite three weeks ago) and watching my grandmother Pearl hold baby Pearl for the first time. Home is saying goodbye to Jeff and Sylvia when they leave to put Brian to bed; they won't be at Jon and Kim's wedding in May because the baby is due in June, so I'll have to visit Canada this summer. Home is Marshall, at the end of an exhausting day, poring over maps with me to see if there's a better route back to South Bend. Home is a cup of tea with Grandmom before I leave early Monday morning; while we chat Mom makes me a fried-egg sandwich, which I eat an hour later on the highway and discover is the best fried-egg sandwich I have ever tasted.
Home is also where Anne got up at 7 AM last Thursday to say goodbye and then went back to sleep. Home is where I arrive after 11 hours of driving (better traffic) and walk right into a New Year's party and sit down to eat Elena's enchiladas, Bill's beans and Tony's avocado dip five minutes after getting out of my car. Home is where Laura and I toast to the New Year with all these "older folks" and then drive through the beginning of the snow storm to another party, this time with a much younger crowd. There's barely room to stand but there's abundant food and drink and conversations to be had. The ball drops and Laura graciously drives me home so I can collapse into bed. Home is where Anne and Dan know already when all the Masses for today are so they and Laura and I go to St. Joe together. Home is where my old friend Fr. Nate says Mass and my friend Carolyn's daughter Theresa cantors and I see the Boughtons and the Collinses and the Sgrois in different parts of the church. Home is using Dan and Anne's shovel and broom to get my car cleared off and cleared out and then using four years' South Bend winter driving experience to navigate the slippery and thickly-covered roads. Home is praying with Michael and Dan and Sarah and coming up with all sorts of ideas for the New Year.
Home is going to sleep tonight knowing that despite 23 cumulative hours of traveling this past week, I have always been at home.