We stand among those who look an awful lot like ourselves. The wind is gusting heavily in that country cemetary surrounded by towering pines and overlooking rolling hills, but we all linger a bit longer. The funeral has ended and we are left with just ourselves.
Most of my cousins, living in relative nearness to each other, have stories and feuds to be resolved and inside jokes. I envy them for this. They will say goodbye and it will be something different than when I say goodbye. I try to make up for years of being on the margins of my family by striking up conversations and telling people to visit me when they are down my way.
Our mothers and fathers were each one of nine siblings. The oldest brother has just passed away, leaving six still alive.
Joe, who along with myself is among the youngest of all the 27 first cousins, in his lilting East Texas accent asks a question that takes me by surprise. "Do you think you'll ever come back?" He could mean anything, but I know what he means. And he is the only family outside my parents who ever actually broaches the subject.
My mind goes in several places at the same time, and I think you know where this is going.
Is home about the heart or about the hat?
In the moment of the question I realize that I could come back. I can always come back.
I also realize that this will be something that follows me throughout my life, whether I stay or leave. At the end of my journey there will always be at least one or two other places where I imagine how things would have turned out if I would have been there instead of where I ended up.
I am here and I am there. I am in a chair on Washington Avenue in a city in the middle of Texas. I am standing on the football field in a nerdy band uniform at the end of a performance, and I think this is as good as it will ever get. I sit across from Kyle and we are laughing at the fact that he is enjoying a happy hour margarita just minutes before a meeting at church. In an old church house on Kreutzwaldi street in Tartu, for the first time I stand in a new world, a wholly different place. In an apartment on a campus I am laughing with a new group of friends who are strategizing to change the world. I'm even standing in a cemetary surrounded by towering pines overlooking rolling hills in the midst of gusting winds.
And in this moment, I am home.