Pulling in to my neighborhood, I can feel my chest tighten.
The trees. When did they get so big? The homes. When did they get so old?
“Welcome to my house,” I say to Erica as I turn the car off.
Home. We. Are. Home.
I open the bright red door, the same bright red door we’ve had since my childhood and am greeted by my parent’s two dogs.
Then, Mom comes out and wraps her arms around me.
I can feel myself loosen. The excitement to come back to Maryland, the sad over the end of the road trip, the anticipation of my closeness to being an expat … they all flood through my veins.
I whisper in my mom’s ear that I love her. That it is good to be home.
Tired hits. We drove for more than eight hours today, from Louisville to Maryland with a stop for lunch in Frostburg to see my brother, an artist specializing in metal work.
Coming home, that tired just takes over and I quickly crawl into my bed as Erica gets herself situated in her room.
“Can you come and sit with me?” I ask my mom.
“Really? You’re going to sleep.”
But she knows this game well. Whenever I need to talk, to soak up my mom, I always ask her to come and crawl into bed with me. Even at 32, just having her next to me makes me feel at ease.
That’s when it hits me.
The magnitude of what I’ve just done.
Flashbacks roll through my mind:
I’m sitting at Putter’s across from my apartment in Las Vegas, drinking beer and shots with Dave on my last night in the city that has been my home for the better part of seven years.
I’m tucking my cats into their carrying cases, tears rolling down my face as they meow their protests. As I drive them to their new home, I sob. And, when I get to the house, it’s even worse.
I’m standing in my empty apartment, imaging where everything was. Seeing myself in my room. Playing fetch with the cats. Sipping wine on my balcony. Those memories seem so unfair as I stand there. The ghosts of the life I lived.
I lay with my mom and let tears roll down my face as I let the moments from the past month of my life sweep through my mind.
“It’s OK, D,” she says as I sit there, silently crying. “You’ve just done something major. And you are going to do something else major. You are allowed to feel like this. It isn’t easy.”
I know she’s right.
For now, I have two weeks to soak up my family and my friends in Maryland. And then, it’s on to Thailand.