When I was young, I expected to see only what of the world I might someday be able to take a bus, or perhaps drive, to. By the time I became a licensed driver, I'd left the state just once, and the trip was aborted before we reached the erroneous endpoint of Conneaut. The idea that I might someday be able to afford more seemed farfetched.
The plane shook slightly, and I looked down again. The lights of a town danced beneath me. I squinted to finally realize there was nothing magical afoot. A cloud was receding far below, slowly revealing more of the grid. I looked away.
When I got my license, cosmopolitan was knowing my way around cities, towns and countryside in a 150 mile radius of my home like they were mine. But at 18, I traveled further: eastern Pennsylvania, then Boston, by bus. Within four years of that, I reached the other coast, visiting San Francisco by air. Another three found me I stepping off a train in San Antonio. That Texas travel had not been so far from this trip, but the journeys were a lifetime apart, or more.
Looking down again, I mused that the shape I saw outlined was Paducah, before confirming my suspicions online. I resumed my work. The next gaze brought Columbus, Indiana, before we hit western Ohio, and I reached a world I knew well.
While I've spent time on both coasts as well as through the hinterlands, so much of my life has been spend within an easy drive of the spot I lived from birth. And my memory provides slices of the moments from so much of it, good, bad, and otherwise.
The Canadian side of Lake Erie became visible in a couple spots, but I saw northeast Ohio’s industrial heart starkly delineated against the murky blackness of the unlit, uninhabited body of water alongside. The swirls of concrete and the patterns of lights made it so easy to pick out so many amazing places I’ve been. After Erie, at least, there'd be a respite until Syracuse. But then things intensified, and I found myself picking out cities, as we converged upon the end of the flight.
After hooking north, our arc traced a pattern I knew. The approach pattern told me which runway I'd see in a moment, and I was not surprised when I saw "9/27" signs flick past on the ground. A friend shortly picked me up at the airport. Inside a half hour I sat upon a bed, greeted by a plate of pickles another friend, my host for so many weeks this year, left as she drifted off to sleep before I arrived.
Eastern Massachusetts and my friends here have cemented a place as loving stewards of a tattered person. If home is where the heart is, then truly I am home.