I have a confession to make: when we flew home on Monday, I had a love affair on the plane. Or more precisely, when we got off the plane. And really, it’s more of an old flame rekindled than a new love discovered. But still.

I had just spent ten hours either walking through the warm shower stall that is Washington, DC, sitting on the air-conditioned Metro, or contorting myself to get comfortable on an arid, cramped airplane. There was no edible food on the plane, and due to delays leaving Reagan, we had not had time to get dinner during our layover (or so I thought, until we proceeded to sit on the tarmac for another forty minutes due to the ever-ominous and ambiguous “engine trouble.”) In short, I was hungry, tired, cranky, and ready to be home.

When I got to the door of the airplane, all of that fell away. We didn’t have a jetway, so I stepped directly into the open air of San Jose. Normally I find it too warm and muggy in the Valley, but on that evening, it felt like sheer bliss. The sun was just setting on the horizon, turning the sky a dusky pink. A breeze came straight up the steps to meet me, filling my lungs not with the fumes of jet fuel (thank God), but rather with a distant (and perhaps imagined) hint of the ocean. That wind smelled sweet. It smelled like home.

As I started to walk down the steps, head thrown back to catch the full effect of the cool, saccharine air, I heard the wind hit my husband, two steps behind me. His sigh of relief echoed my own from only moments before. Tired though we were, the thought of even cooler air and our home near the ocean infused us both with new energy, enough to make it through those dreaded final thirty miles of the journey. They are always the worst.

Driving home, I looked at the dry palette of browns and tans that make up summer in the Santa Cruz mountains. Many would find the contrast shocking after the lush, almost obscene greens of the East Coast. But to me, it was sheer poetry. Again, it looked like home.

That’s when it hit me all over again: I got it bad. I am a Californian, through and through. Every time I’ve tried to deny that (read: London), I’ve ended up miserable and longing to come home. So in the end, all my doubts and questions about not moving to DC came down to that final moment of my trip, that breath of home, the far-off scent of my ocean. Who am I kidding?, I thought. This is where I belong.

Dorothy was right — there really is no place like home. Now if only I could get that whole heel-clicking thing down…!

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