The plane turned and taxied mid-air, and I could see the green lights of the Bank of America Plaza plastered against the dusty-black, night sky. I sighed deeply, a flood of emotions and fleeting memories filling my mind as a small smirk crept upon my face.
Dallas, Texas; I was home.
I stepped off of the plane and the southern hospitality engulfed me in it’s warmth, thick like the October humidity. I exchanged whimsical smiles with those who passed me by, as I looked around the airport at the souvenirs shops and Dallas Cowboys paraphernalia.
“Do you need help looking for baggage claim, ma’am?” A tall, older man stopped in front of me to offer his guidance.
Startled, I smiled widely “Oh no, but thank you though!” Due to the rough journey in my new state of residence, I developed a mentality of perpetually living on the edge in L.A. and having low expectations of people. I had to remind myself to change mental zones; Dallas welcomed me back home with open arms, and I joyfully ran into them as we embraced each other happily.
Walking up the driveway of my childhood home, I felt like a member of the Publisher’s Clearing House crew getting ready to surprise my parents with a $200,000 check. They had no clue I was in town, so I was sure their reactions would be over-the-top, especially my mother’s. One thing’s for certain, I live for the element of surprise.
I jammed my hand into my pocket and dug for my keys.
“Damnit!” I gritted to myself. Leave it to me to fly halfway across the country without grabbing the proper house keys. I dropped my shoulders and sunk within myself. Questioning my next move, I turned around to see my mother’s car in the driveway. I had, but I had no choice. I began to pound at the door with all my might.
Who is it?!” I heard the frantic accent of a man yell through the other side of the door.
I hesitated on what to say. “PACKAGE!” I replied.
He asked again, “Who is it?!?”
“Daddy it’s me. Open the door,” I said calmly.
My dad unlocked the door and cautiously opened it as he peeked over. His face went blank, and I’m convinced he was so caught off guard that he was at a loss for the proper words to say. He opened the door wide for me to step in over the threshold, and as I walked in, I gazed at every wall of the house as if I had just entered Buckingham Palace.
I stepped into the den to see my mother, waking up from what seemed like a much needed nap. She blinked rapidly, staring at me and put her glasses on in disbelief. She leaped up to hug me as two tears fell from my eyes and we stepped back to observe each other lovingly. We had a total Nnedi and Celie moment, when they reunited with each other at the end of the movie, The Color Purple.
“Are you okay?!?” She examined me, touching my face cautiously.
“I’m fine, Mommy. Yes, I’m actually here.” I nodded with approval.
She began laughing and jumping up and down, kicking her chubby feet into the air. I mimiced her, donkey kicking as we held hands and danced together.
That next morning, my mom and I rode bikes and went garage sale shopping.That Saturday, I took a trip to Huntsville, TX, where I attended my first Homecoming as an alumni, and it felt amazing to be in the midst of all my college buddies and my Huntsville family. I could argue it was one of the best Saturdays I’ve had in a long time.
There were many times during this trip where I found myself sitting quietly, deep in thought. I won’t lie; I teetered with the idea of dropping everything in Los Angeles and staying back in Dallas. On April 28th, 2014, when I set my wheels on 1-10 West, I knew that I had stepped foot into what would probably be the hardest and most necessary journey of my life. I figured I would probably lose friends and struggle financially, but in the midst of it all, I had this inkling feeling that I L.A. was where I belonged. During those first few months, Los Angeles had dealt me so many blows, and honestly I was ready to give it all up.
When it came time to leave Dallas, I missed my flight twice. I sat in the airport with my mother trying to figure out how I would get back to Los Angeles. In the middle of the DFW terminal, I broke down in tears.
“I just wanna go home, Mommy. Just take me home.”
“What are you talking about,” she snapped.
“I just wanna go home. I’ll have my car shipped out here.” I shrugged. “I just want to be back home,” I said, with defeat in my voice. I knealt down on the floor by my phone which was plugged up to an outlet.
“No!” My mom’s voice shook me. “You will not do that. If you want to come back, you better go back to LA and get your things back yourself! You don’t make anybody do that for you.”
And I prayed and prayed. If I was meant to stay in Dallas, God would keep me here. If I were meant to go back to Los Angeles, God would find a way to get me there. Somehow, the airport put me on the next flight free of charge, with no cost to check my bag in, and they booked my ticket as ‘PRIORITY’.
“Okay, God. I get it,” I thought to myself.
I did miss my family, the comfort of not paying rent, the weekend trips to Huntsville, the Texas gas prices, the food, and running around the kitchen with my mom, but at that moment, I knew I had a higher calling to pursue.
Out of pure unconsciousness, I put my hand over my heart when I return to or pass by a place that is connected to a memory. Because of this, I’m convinced that home is not necessarily a place. Home, for me, is a feeling. It’s wherever I feel loved and wanted, a place that puts my heart at ease because, no matter how bad things may get, I know it holds special memories I can think back to in times of trouble. My first year living in Los Angeles was the lonliest, most challenging, year of my life. There were moments where I damn near thought I would lose my mind. Now, I can truly say I’ve found my footing and finally made a home out of Los Angeles, too.
If you ask me, I have many homes. Nigeria is where I am rooted. Dallas, TX is where I blossomed. I’m cherished in Maryland. Huntsville, TX helped raise me, and Los Angeles refined me. I left tiny little pieces of my heart in each of these places, and in return, they gave me the strength, lessons, and love I need to pursue the journey set out before me.