“Home is not a place.”

My mother and I, circa 1993. Photo credit for the baby picture goes to my father.

There’s a section of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport called “The N Gates.” They’re the worst gates to fly into, because they’re far away from the terminal and require a separate tram ride to get to baggage claim. So naturally, almost every time I fly in from Phoenix, I end up landing at an N gate and extending my journey just a little bit more. It’s always the worst part of the trip.

I was raised in the Phoenix area, but my parents moved to Seattle a short time ago. So even though I stayed “in state” for school, I somehow still ended up living about 1,400 miles away from my family.

After spending an eternity on the N gate tram, I reach the main portion of the airport and find my mother waiting on the other side of the turnstile.
 
 Her hand shoots up over her head as she waves at me, smiling ear to ear. I return her childish grin, and the handle of my suitcase clanks against the tile floor as I run up to her for a hug.
 
 We’re both pretending we’re not about to cry. We suck at it, though, so we laugh and blink away the tears.
 
 “How was your flight?” she asks as we make our way out of the airport.
 
 “It was good,” I say. “I’m starving.”
 
 “I’m making potato soup for dinner,” she says. “It’ll be ready when we get home.”
 
 After a half hour trip from the airport, we get to my parents’ apartment in the heart of downtown Seattle. 
 
 Mom heads to the stove as I put my bags down.

“It feels so good to have you home,” she gushes.
 “Seattle’s not exactly home for me, though,” I point out.
 
 Mom’s eyes stay on the spoon in her hand. “Home is not a place,” she tells me. “Home is where the people you love are.”
 
 I look up at her. Her hair, a dark shade of blonde just like my own, is waving because of the steam. Her blue eyes are concentrated hard on her cooking, but her face and smile are soft.

“Yeah, you’re right,” I say.

“I’m always right,” my mother says. “Now grab some bowls; dinner’s ready.”

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