And they say, "California! Are you from California?"
And I say, "God, no! Nononono! We just had to live there for a few years while my husband finished his doctorate."
"Didn't like it, huh?"
"We couldn't wait to get back."
And then, every time, with genuine warmth: "Well, welcome home!"
I have been welcomed home more times than I can count in the last six months. From C.J. as we crossed the state line in the U-Haul to the checker at Byerly's this afternoon: welcome home, welcome home, welcome home. And every time I say the same thing: "Thanks! It's so good to be back."
Every time, I don't know if they can possibly see how much I mean it.
Soon my real driver's license will come, and then they'll stop saying it in words. But I keep feeling it anyway. The fat robins and the striped gophers. The sudden hailstorms. The skyline. The lakes. Lefse in the stores. The choice of paper or plastic. Kolachys with new friends and spontaneous ice cream with old friends. Picking people up from the airport and running into other people I know. When I'm not humming BNL*, I'm singing along with John Popper: "And you dream about what you are missing when the wind in February blows -- welcome home, yes, 'cause it's your home." I think I took that the wrong way for four years, but it's okay to take it wrong. It's okay to miss the way the wind in February blows, when you're in exile. But it's even better not to have to.
*For those who don't read my real journal, the pertinent line is, "I don't buy everything I read -- haven't even read everything I've bought." 40 books at the library's bag sale, only 4 of them for Stella. Oh yeah. That's the stuff.