I pull into the parking lot at the Best Western, and the routine begins.
First I park, preferably in the spaces that are equidistant from both the main lobby entrance and the adjacent side entrance on the chance that my hotel room is closer to the stairs than the elevator.
I retrieve my overnighter from the backseat along with a plastic grocery bag containing two “healthy” frozen dinners. I enter in through the main lobby and greet the man at the front desk, all the while admiring how much he resembles that one dude from SNL. He brings out the little paper. I don’t really know what it’s for, but I sign my name, along with the make and model of my car. Then I wait for the key. What will it be tonight? 321? 412? 211?
I’m at the elevator. There’s music playing. I’ve never heard it before. I get out of the elevator and walk to my room. The hallway is completely deserted. Just an ominous row of doors on either side. Two scary, little girls are bound to appear at any moment.
I use my magnetic room key to open its corresponding hotel room. Attempt #1- blinking yellow light. Attempt #2- blinking yellow light. Attempt #3- green light. It’s the rule of comedy.
I walk straight to the back of the room. Bags go on the desk. I turn on the air unit hanging below the heavily draped windows. Holy Maria Von Trapp, where do they find this fabric!? I visit the bathroom.
The hand soap gets unwrapped; a hand towel gets unfolded.
Now to the bed. I pull the bedspread three fourths of the way down and lift off the linens to inspect for bedbugs in the upper seams of the mattress. It’s clean. I turn on the television. TBS. Raymond’s on.
I unwrap the first frozen dinner. Macaroni and cheese. Or thin crust pizza. Something that compliments the main entrée. I puncture holes in the taut layer of plastic using another piece of plastic: the fork I took from the deli section at the grocery store. Microwave. 4 minutes.
I get out my laptop. There are five different WiFi links, so depending on the room, you test to see which one has the better connection. I find it. Now connect. It’s all memorized. 05487. summer10. DING!
I’m back to the microwave and retrieve round one of dinner. It goes on the desk to cool. I prepare the sequel. It’s Turkey Meatloaf. Or Chicken Marinara. Something with lots of protein. I go to that grocery store every week trying to find something I can prepare in a hotel room that isn’t found in the frozen food aisle, but here I am. 4 minutes.
I watch TV. I eat food. I check my email. DING! And so it goes…
What can I say? This was my routine for the past couple of months, and yet I felt there was nothing “routine” about it. It’s actually quite strange to catch a whiff of yourself one day, and know it’s the smell of the Best Western.
In fact, it was on that day, the day I smelled like the Best Western and then found mustard on my gym shorts from having eaten a sandwich in the car, that I felt a little homesick. Not for a particular geographical location, but for a feeling.
What a great word. “Home” is one of few words in the English language that evoke such profound sentiments, yet remain somewhat difficult to accurately define. Here are a few who tried:
"Home is where one starts from," T.S. Eliot
"Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration." Charles Dickens
"It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home." Author Unknown
"Where we love is home- home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” Maya Angelou
Well back to my story. There I was that day, mustard shorts and all, feeling like a stranger in my own life. Not really recognizing who I was or what I smelled like. And then, just like that, I found my way back home. Not by myself, of course.
I had decided to take a walk because I couldn’t be inside anymore. As I was walking down a sidewalk, I glanced quickly to my left. Then I stopped. I looked again, but this time I turned to face what I was seeing. What a sight!
A current of wispy fog was slowly enveloping the arid desert mountains in front of me. As the setting sun sent its rays refracting through these layers of mist, a great patchwork of shadow and light was projected on the surrounding cliffs. In the foreground, giant palm trees appeared only as great, black silhouettes of themselves as the sprays of sunset illuminated them from behind.
Immediately I was back on earth. I was back to reality. Things were in perspective, and I felt like I had found my breadcrumbs again. I wasn’t home yet, but I was on my way.
I think we all have the inherent desire to feel Home. We want to feel like we belong, even if only to our own lives. I know I’m home when I feel like myself, and vice versa. It’s like empowerment and ease at the same time. You can sense the rich history of your origins, the possibilities of your future, and then bask in joy of the present. And though I find myself easily distracted at times from that down home goodness, at least I know I have others to help me along the way. Whether it’s through a friend, a family member, or this nature moment straight out of Jurassic Park, we all find home by ourselves, but never alone.
That being said, I’m very pleased to make an announcement:
On January 1, 2011 a brand new website will be launched. TheRoadBackHome.com. (Add it to your favorites right now!! The domain exists, but everything is still in the very early stages.)
TheRoadBackHome.com will be dedicated to fulfilling and maintaining the instinctively human desire to feel peace, worth, and joy. In short, to feel Home.
This will be done in many ways, but first and foremost, it will be done by YOU! This will not be MY website. It will be a place for anyone to share the joy, the defeat, the humor of what we each encounter on our own journeys home.
Though strictly anonymous, all participators will be encouraged to share something: a thought, an epiphany, a picture, something that has reaffirmed or maybe helped to rediscover their own personal power. Why? “Because sharing the journey makes it more your own.”
In addition, TheRoadBackHome.com will also serve as a platform for “Charity Spotlights.” This section of the website will be dedicated to sharing what good work is being done by others across the nation and world, and will include information on how to support them.
Finally, TheRoadBackHome.com will also sponsor Events from time to time. These Events will be opportunities to serve, and the website will serve merely as the organization to facilitate that service.
I’m excited to see how this project will continue to evolve. It will be a consistently changing website, unlike my blog which will continue to be updated the first of every month. And though it isn’t MY website, I will be managing it, so feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions. What does Home mean to you?
At least I know what it’s not. Despite comfortable beds and free continental breakfasts, it’s not the Best Western.