She is lovely. Creamy vintage lace, delicate buttons all down her back, descending into a sweeping fishtail.
I fumble through the chapel, out of time with the music, but whatever. She floats down the aisle after me. Dad is smart in his officer’s white dress suit although he only reluctantly links arms with her.
The day is lovely. Agreeable sun, genuine smiles. People we haven’t seen in years.
A photo here, a selfie there. Drive fast. Gather round, serve tea and respect, hand over bank notes in red envelopes. Drive fast. Gather round, serve more tea and more respect, hand over more bank notes in red envelopes.
Sunset over the lake, over canapés and several kinds of sauvignon blanc. I deliver my speech under the influence, over the moon. We offer roof-raising Cantonese toasts with some distinctly non-Cantonese guests: Yum sing! The louder the better!
They drive me home, raw in the throat and exhausted, but joyful.
The sun fails to emerge and the day has stalled at an unpleasant shade of grey. The adrenaline is gone. She is gone.
Well, she’s a 10-minute drive away. But I have a gaping hole in my soul. This house aches of emptiness. Her stuff is still here, but she will never live here again. She will never call this home again, this red-brick shell the two of us have shared for nine years.
And if this is not her home, how can it be mine?
But wait a second. I was 10,000 miles away before she was ever 10 minutes down the road.
Did this place cease to be home on July 31, 2011, when I left for Ecuador?
Or was it January 31, 2008, when I left for Spain?
The thing is, I leave often – and come home just as often.
It’s been different, each experience of coming home. Because Home is not a static concept; it’s relative. Each going and coming back changes all the emotional geography.
Erosion. Tectonic shifts. Tremors and, on occasion, earthquakes. Some hills higher than they used to be. Chasms where there were none.
My most recent Coming Home was on September 25 – a week before October 3.
Two significant life events collide. This is major tectonic movement, changing the shape of the green and blue bits on the map.
I confess I debated whether or not to post this, whether or not to include October 4. I mean, you’re not supposed to be devastated your sister got married. And I’m not – yet something in me is grieving the end of an era.
She chose to begin a new chapter when she said “I do”. That’s cool. I chose to begin a new chapter when I said goodbye to Bolivia. That’s cool.
What I didn’t expect was that two new chapters in two separate tales would trigger a plot twist in my story.
I’m not sure exactly what that twist is, yet. I just sense that October 4 changed both her future and mine, even as I was pondering how to develop this new chapter.
The letters H, O, M and E are taped to the door of what was formerly her bedroom. For nine years we called this place home, but in practice referred to it affectionately as House – with a capital H, no article (“We need to clean House before the guests arrive”).
House. It is, after all, a place intended to be only a transitory home for us. House is static but Home is not.
So here I am, trying to reconfigure my map of Home, where I am and where I need to be in relation to it.