It’s not that moment when you touch down in the plane after watching, unabashadly smiling, as that familiar scene of a city you’ve loved so long rises up closer and closer beneath you. It’s not that moment when you strap on your backpack after 12 hours on a plane and 16 months across an ocean to go greet your best friend who you know is on the way. It’s not even that moment when you finally see your bestie pull up in the ancient old minivan you’ve adventured in so many times and give them a hug to end all hugs before you run off to devour a huge burrito, always a burrito, after you arrive.
There is one moment that I can’t get out of my head when I get home, this one moment that lets you know that finally, after all this time, you are home. But it isn’t any of those. And it isn’t that first night when you’ve only told 2 people you’re back in the country but somehow you still end up overbooked with plans and have to run from dinner to a drag show to your friends last show in his band before falling into a taxi home because you’re too exhausted to bother with a bus, and then pass out on your friends couch like you’ve done so many times before.
It’s also not the next day, when you show up unexpectedly to your friend’s wedding, your friend who thought you were on the other side of the world, and watch tears form in his eyes during an embrace strong enough to hold the meaning of a long awaited reunion and a wedding all wrapped up in one. That is a moment to remember for the rest of your life, but it would be one of those moments anywhere, not only in a place you call home.
Nor is it the day after the wedding, when the surprise is over and you finally let everyone know you’re home and you get called 30 seconds later to come to a barbecue at a house filled with great friends. It’s not even the moment when you walk through that back gate into a garden covered yard into the arms of so many people you’ve missed while away and spend the next couple hours sharing stories from all that time apart.
It’s just after that. The moment is soon. It gets dark and some people leave, it’s just a few close friends now and everyone heads inside to the living room with drinks and you follow them and the guitar comes in while everyone nestles into a spot close to each other. You don’t sit far from each other at home.
Here’s the moment. Right here. Snuggled up on a couch with several good friends as a guitar gets passed around, letting out familiar melodies in a circle of people who you’ve seen in this setting so many times before.
Here's the moment that rings like a bell with a pitch that reverberates at the same frequency as you and says one word: Home.
Here’s the moment, simple and lovely like so many other times, one that could blend into a procession of others just like it, but wonderful and pure just the same, honest and open, simple happiness without grandeur.
Here’s the moment that could be forgotten in a haze of similar memories, similar moments from so many years with the same people passing instruments around, making music and laughter, snuggled up together, heads leaning on shoulders, legs sprawled out on top of those next to you. That closeness that only comes with time, a glow of candles lighting the space and the smell of food recently finished lingers in the warmth of a house that resonates in a way that only a home crowded with loved ones can.
Here’s the moment you remember you have a home, and remember just how much that place, and those people, mean to you; remember what you’re missing when you’re out on the road for all those months and years at a time, the sacrifice you make while fulfilling that yearning for the unknown.
Here’s the moment where you question all that’s been motivating you the last several years; where you question that drive and urge to travel, to unrelenting travel, to travel at the expense of this home you’ve almost forgotten existed out on the road.
Because these two things don’t exist together, no matter how much you love the road, grow accustomed to it, start to need it, it still can’t replace a house full of friends from across the years of your life smiling and laughing with music in their ears and hearts; still can’t replace a home that emanates love and caring as soon as you step onto the porch and see your friends’ smiles grow a little wider. The road has a lot of things, but it doesn’t have that.
Doesn’t have brunch and bloody marys with old friends where the serious and silly of your lives spill out onto the table between you like there isn’t any difference between the two. Doesn’t have the crowded friend filled cars, piled up on the way to old swimming holes where you know all the right grooves to lounge in the rocks. Doesn’t have decade long friends on cliffside campsites overlooking the Ocean and taking in that salty sea air. Doesn’t have the homes you walk into without knocking or the spare key you keep in your pocket because you’re always welcome. Doesn’t have that intimacy, that casual closeness that only comes with years of these little moments that mean so little all alone, but so much all together.
Because you can make friends on the road, we all know we make friends out there, but there’s a difference between the excitement in the new words shared with an unexpected new friend and the comfort in silence between words that barely need to be spoken between two friends on a balcony, dangling their feet with beers in hands, not moving, not searching, not seeking some vague dreams and destinations brought on by an unrelenting wanderlust, but instead letting the world wash over you slowly with the golden hour of the setting sun lighting up trees you’ve stared at a hundred times in that perfect gold green glow of leaves lit fire by the setting sun. The road has a lot of things, but it doesn’t have that.
I know that even as I dream and plan and scheme for the next adventure. Even as the road calls my name and every dream involves someplace far and foreign, I know that I won’t find all that out there.
But the road calls me all the same.