***Warning: extreme sappiness alert: best accompanied by a half gallon of Ben and Jerry’s***

What a delight it was to hop on a plane home to see my family this weekend. It feels funny writing “home”, because I’m not sure exactly where that is anymore. Home is still the Pacific Northwest, where I literally started crying the moment I stepped out of the airport last time I visited, because the air smells different there. It smells like, well air, but also rain, pine trees, earth, home. Ok, the NW people are laughing at me now for my sentimentality but I challenge any of you to spend a long time out of Washington and tell me that the air doesn’t smell like that when you come home. I can’t wait to see the mountain while we make the drive back to Puyallup. I can’t wait to walk in the neighborhood I grew up in, to hear birds, see deer, smell flowers and trees, see the mountain. I can’t believe how QUIET it is! (off the horrible suburban strip mall they now call South Hill).  I can’t wait to see the people who are family to me and always will be. Go to church. Go to Indochine. Have some Pho. It doesn’t seem like a place that belongs in the past, I still feel like I’m a part of it, even though I haven’t been there for years. But it’s no longer where we go to celebrate holidays. The house I grew up in will probably be sold soon.  We don’t live there, but I can’t imagine Washington not being home anymore. Those feelings are hard to reconcile.

But really, Baltimore is home too. It’s where I put my blood, sweat and tears the last 3 1/2 years of my life, where I became a nurse along with so many others who shared the same path. Where I was present for so many deaths, touched by so many lives, knew so many families, so many patients come and now gone. Their ghosts still follow me (um, not literally, that would be quite frightening). Each person taught me so much. I became so charmed by Charm City, in all its dysfunctional glory. (crabs, boh, stoop-socializing, neighbor-knowing, duck pin bowling, byob, festival going, kickballing, talk-like-a-pirate-day glory). It also feels like home.

And then, DC is home too. It’s where I navigated my way through the system, riding buses, doing  Americorps, outreach, teaching, getting to know the real city and not just the marble touristy parts, living in a closet, working in the hospital, poor as heck but happy as a clam, meeting my future husband, deciding my life’s direction. DC feels like home too.

What is home then? Each new experience in my life has changed me greatly, and it has all happened so FAST. Each place and experience takes a part of me and keeps it there. Home is where you learn, where you grow, where you love, where you change. But home is also people. Home is family, obviously. Home is also the people who watched you change- who were witness to it, a part of it maybe, or those who were apart from the experience but love you before, through, and after the transformation. These people I know are friends and family for life, I hope you know who you are.

So in the end, what happens when home is so many places and so many people? I’m still trying to figure it all out…..here in MEXICO. Am I going to have to add that to the list too? Someone explain that one to me, please…