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Coming home means sleeping in the airport for seven hours. Coming home means being one of the worried, terribly exhausted people in line wondering when United Airlines will finally make up their minds about whether it’s the rain or mechanical failure. It is talking to an Aussie bloke from Melbourne and feeling like you’ve known each other for years. It means climbing off the plane on shaky legs (legs that have been wanting to gallop all the way from San Francisco).

It means that you are the last one using the restroom in the Boise Airport at 3:00 a.m. It means laughing at yourself when you realize the toilet, sink and paper towel roll are all manual. We’re not in California anymore, Toto.

Coming home means talking to the kids in the seat behind you, then talking to them again after you get off the plane. Mostly because you miss your sisters so much. Then again, they seem like nice kids.

It means using the payphone the wrong way so that your dad gets a million phone calls and you never give him a chance to pick up, all at three in the morning.

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Christmas in Queensland

It is waiting, nose pressed against the glass, watching for a big white van. Coming home means looking the wrong way for the van because you’ve been in Australia so long that your brain’s been hard-wired for the wrong side of the road.

Coming home means seeing your youngest sister walk through the automatic glass doors and not knowing who she is. Then crying out “Booboo,” because that’s what you used called them all. And it still fits her, and it sounds right in your mouth. It means hugging her long and hard and remembering her crooked grin.

It is seeing your sister who grew out her hair long and cut it before you could see it. It means hugging your parents, and finding them exactly the same as you left them. Coming home means finding not a day has passed.
It means climbing into the white van and having a little black dog see you and turn into one wagging tail. Of course she remembers you. She lays her head on your lap all the way home. The van still smells the same as it did the day you left. Somehow it brings tears to your eyes. The silly stink of the van named Queen Mary brings tears to your eyes.

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On the coast of New Zealand near Napier.

Coming home means falling back into your place, like a piano key that’s just been played.

It means checking again and again, to make sure that you even left.

Coming home means coming into your grandfather’s neighborhood, into his house, while he’s away in Florida, and finding all your sisters passed out on the living room floor. It’s feeling relief because you’re standing in your home state. It’s finding your next sister down, the one who has stopped at seven airports on the way home because she was too cheap to buy a continuous ticket, who has been to every airport in New Zealand in one day, visibly drooping as she gets a drink of water.

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Being those “big kids” who use playgrounds. Wellington, NZ

 

It means waking up all your sisters, even though it’s three o’ clock a.m, just to say hello. The second youngest has peirced ears, and you have to look at her a few times to get over it. Coming home is sleeping in a familiar place, on the same futon couch that you and your sisters slept on many times. Coming home is finding that it’s still bad.

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The Pahsimeroi Valley.

It means doing the various shopping trips that it takes to run a ranch five hours from anywhere. It’s driving the curving roads and somehow not remembering a thing you see, even though you promised yourself you would pay close attention.

Coming home means you are immersed into your old life, just like putting on an old pair of sneakers. It means work and frost on the grass and last year’s gloves. Coming home is soup on Mondays and shipping orders. It means the miracle of being in the same time zone. It is green grass shoots starting to show. Coming home is jumping your truck with cables. It means hunting for keys and silverware and books.
It means sitting quietly in the morning, among your own things. It’s talking of the things you will do and build and what life you want to have. It is holding hands across your own kitchen table.

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Places we have been. Wellington, NZ

 

It means a year of catching up, of wondering where everyone’s lives went. It means that people are missing. It means that the pages have turned while you weren’t looking. Coming home means seeing all the things that have and haven’t happened. It means that you will be astonished that everyone remembers you.

It means taxes and registration and mail and guns that need cleaned. Coming home means sorting and cleaning and washing and repairing. It means planning and tea and cooking four meals at a time. It means swearing at mice. Coming home is checking to make sure your trees are still alive. It means driving five over because you’re a citizen of the United States.

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Narrow escape from Queensland.

 

It means wool socks and and a burning cold wind from the North. It means ice on the windscreen. Coming home means lights in the house at night, a cat on the front steps. It means screeching stairs as you go up to bed. It means the Mouse Olympics in the ceiling above your head at night.
Coming home is branding and tagging, slogging through mud. It’s driving gooseneck trailers and waiting for glow plugs. It means that your clothes smell like dogs and cats, manure and 90-weight. It is unpacking brown cardboard boxes.

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Our home.

Coming home is watching the clouds as they wash down into the valley. It is standing out in the snow because it’s been over a year. It’s seeing bluebirds and redwing blackbirds, sandhill cranes and killdeer.
Coming home means moonlight like daylight, willows as red as roses. Coming home means the ocean of mountains around you. Coming home means belonging.

Comments

  1. Brenda Barker says:

    I, for one, have enjoyed keeping up with your adventure… The Great Walkabout… but am immensely happy that you came home! God Bless the Kelly’s.

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