one of us had worked herself into such a froth of worry that a pounding headache had taken hostage her noggin. moved right in beneath her skullbones and hammered away for days and nights on end.
seems it was a worry headache (either that or i’m allergic to snow). worried about the tall fellow, the one who lives here, who was off wandering the desert, looking skyward, in the land they call “the vegas of the desert.” the arabian desert. far off dubai.
oh, there was all the flying back and forth. apparently, the world no longer travels in sailing ships, the kind that bounce upon the waves. we go for big metal tubes, with wings, we climb in and confound gravity, bump above the clouds.
these days, besides the litanies of prayer for gravity to hold on tight, not give out, not surrender its airborne cargo, we’ve all sorts of crazy other things to pray about. hope no one climbs aboard with powdery explosives in his undies, for cryin’ out loud.
so, yes, all those worries climbed aboard, settled in, made themselves most at home inside my head, and set me throbbing for days and days on end.
which is a long-winded way of saying we had our eyes wholly set on the little box on the calendar that said the fellow from the desert was, at last, after nine long days that stretched way back before the new year, coming home, just last night.
in fact, the eve before his homebound plane even rumbled down the runway, we got down to the business of welcoming, called a meeting of the full committee.
made signs, a whole sheaf. taped ’em to every nook and cranny we could find. strung streamers far and wide, strung a veritable web, a trap for getting here to there, anywhere that involved the front hall and doorway. poor children were on their knees, shimmying to the stairs. had to come in from school the round-about way, trudging through the snow, clomping through the garden path that runs beside the house, climbing in the back door where no crepe-paper traps had yet been set.
but, oh, that tall fellow was being welcomed verily.
while we waited for the plane to zoom in beneath the blizzard clouds, i set about the business of cooking up a welcome feast.
my mama, who’d early in the day decided no one ought be out upon the icy roads, showed up anyway, round noon. carried in her little cooler, filled with all the fixings of the fellow’s favorite middle-of-the-winter dinner, a chicken, rice and mushroom concoction that is pure comfort food, and named, in honor of the cook, chicken rice grammy.
at last the phone rang. he’d landed.
and like that the headache started lifting.
miracle cure for worry: just land the plane in one piece, and hear the voice of the one you love without the crackle that comes while overseas.
oh, it was sweet all right. when the cab pulled up, and all three of us–the ones he’d left at home–nearly leapt out the door, into the blowing snow in our holey socks. we hugged him so tight, it’s notable that he didn’t topple down.
and now, fed and rested, he is home.
as i type i hear the sweet sounds that are as much the heartbeat of this house as the sputters from the furnace and the creaks of all the floorboards. i hear him clearing his throat in that way he does. i hear his fingers at the keyboard, a staccato that is his and his alone. i could tell you who was typing five rooms away, because each one of us has a signature tap-tap-tap it seems. and i know his.
i’d thought this meander might be a meditation on coming home. how there’s nothing like the feel of your own sheets, the lump in that same old spot on the mattress, the one there before you left and still there upon return.
instead, it’s mostly a postcard to those who know and love the tall one, who like me held their breath the whole nine days. who tracked his flight, his comings and his goings. his stories splashed across the news.
our world was suspended for those days, while we hoped and prayed that he’d come home. while i, for one, sent up prayers each morning, noon, and night. and a hundred thousand times between.
the world is right again. there is no missing piece in our midst. all four chairs at the table are filled again. the laundry’s piled high, but i don’t mind. the juice glass is left on the counter. the toothpaste is smeared beside the sink.
but after nine days so far away the phone lines from here to there wouldn’t reach, i am quite content to wash an extra glass or two, wipe down the bathroom sink. and smooth the sheets from where he slept.
he’s home, and that’s the only thing that matters.
among the dozens of signs we made with construction paper and markers, the one above is the one that melted me the most. my little scribbler made it, words that if you knew him would melt you through and through. he is always, always pining for a donut, that little one, and so, when i looked down on his drawing pad, and saw the love poem up above, “love you more than donuts,” with a carefully drawn and sprinkled ring of dough, well, i knew that was the sign that belonged in front of all the rest, taped to the front door, the first thing our desert traveler would lay his eyes on upon return to the house that loves him like no other…
no questions today, just a simple sigh of relief and joy. and now i am scurrying off to spend some time with the tall, gentle giant in our lives.
may you too cherish the ones with whom you spend your blessed holy hours.