In high school I didn’t understand why Homecoming was so special. Sure, I got to put on a fancy dress, paint my face with makeup, and feel like a grown up for one night. But, it didn’t really carry any weight. I never felt like I was coming home, celebrating the return to a space that held comfort, care and joy; or reuniting with long lost family and friends.
Homecoming was just a name, not an experience.
Many large universities also held homecoming celebrations in the Fall as students returned, and perhaps these celebrations would have felt more reflective of the name, “Homecoming” if Western had held them. But alas, WWU was not that type of school.
So, it wasn’t until after graduating, after leaving homecoming dances and celebrations behind that I truly experienced a real homecoming of my own.
As I walked through the Seattle-Tacoma airport after three months in Europe, tears filled my eyes, each corner I turned I imagined seeing my moms face, the wind escaped from my lungs with every checkpoint I passed, little gasps erupting from my body, and when I saw her, when I dropped my bags on the airport floor and ran into where I thought my mom’s arms were (I couldn’t see because of all the tears), that’s when I knew what Homecoming was.
As I watched the Seattle skyline wizz by outside my window on the drive and breathed in salty air, that’s when I knew what homecoming was.
When I sunk into the bed in my childhood room, I really got it.
Homecoming was not a dance, or a party, homecoming was the feeling of returning to a place filled with love and peace, familiarity, family and friends: a place you really felt at home.
And even for this wild woman, with a gypsy soul, there is no better feeling than coming home.
Getting off the plane this time around wasn’t as emotional. My checkpoints were fewer, my security clearance was quicker, I was an old pro at this by now. And this time, I wasn’t coming back to my childhood home or my mom’s open arms (I’d seen her just a month before in Switzerland thank goodness). This time I was coming home to my best friend and her sweet family, to my car-home Luna, and to US soil.
Even though it was different, it felt just as good. The moment I stepped foot off plane I felt like I could breathe again. I had been craving the ease of an airport where everyone spoke my language. The ease of knowing this would be my last airport for a while, and not just one of many along the way.
And when the customs officer smiled at me and said “Welcome Home” I got it once again: “Oh, this is homecoming.”
Climbing into Luna the next day brought it full circle. Sitting in Luna’s driver seat felt just like climbing into my childhood bed in Seattle. I was home. This was home. My little road trip queen, filled with everything I need in the world, was welcoming me back into her arms, and boy was I happy to be in them.
There’s no shame in wanting to come home, wanting to feel held in a familiar space, in celebrating the joy of returning to the known. Hell, that’s why there’s a whole tradition centered around homecoming. Sometimes you just have to get beyond high school dances to understand it.
You can still be a wanderer, and wander home from time to time.
After all, if you never wander home, you don’t have the opportunity to set back out into the world once again.
May you all enjoy wherever you find yourselves in your wandering journey. And always, always go where you are called, even when it’s home, even when it’s somewhere you never imagined you’d long to go! The world has lessons to teach you!