The sound of a baby crying jolted me awake. Slowly the sounds of the other people came into focus. Someone talking about their grandmother, another talking about a wedding. These flights were always packed. The baby once again cried out loud. His mother tried to hush his screams but to no avail. I checked my watch to see there was still fifteen minutes until the plane arrived at the gate.
I had grown up with two homes in two different countries. My annual pilgrimage between the two was always bittersweet. I had family on one end of the world but friends living on the other. There was always a conflict within me as to which was actually home. The answer, I found, was that they both were.
The people had started lining up at the gate. The child had now calmed down and was cooing quietly in his mother’s arms. Elsewhere a man was helping his father from the terminal’s seat into a wheelchair, ignoring his father’s ramblings about the lack of quality service these days. My father motioned to me to get up. My sister rose from her slumber to collect her various belongings that were now strewn across the terminal’s floor: a pair of earbuds, a book, and, her most prized possession, an MP3 player. As my mother herded the two of us to follow my father, I remembered the things I was leaving behind.
I remembered the dozens of friends I had made. The countless days spent exploring the parks with them and the hours we spent trying to catch wild rabbits. The seemingly endless bicycle rides that led us from our houses all the way across town to the school. I remembered the school. All the valuable lessons each of my teachers had taught me, both in and out of class. I remembered the apartment in which I had lived, searching every nook and cranny, learning all of its secrets, and then falling into the pond on the terrace.
A string of people had begun boarding the aircraft. Slowly but surely we were moving onto the jetway. A steward took all four of our boarding passes and passports and checked us in. The passengers behind us were all as restless as we were. Perks of taking the 5 AM flight. Once checked in, we made our way down the bridge and onto the aircraft. The stewardess at the door greeted us and, after checking our tickets, directed us toward our seats. The aircraft itself was enormous, fitting around three hundred people. The eleven-year-old me was excited to be on a plane this big. As we got to the seats I reflected on my other home.
Arriving in India never lost its magic. The excitement I felt whenever I arrived would take weeks to dissipate. Between visiting relatives and learning new things about my own culture, my time in Calcutta was always well-spent. I would spend hours playing cricket outside, then crash out in an air-conditioned room to try to beat the heat.
But this trip was different from my normal flights during the summer. I had a different destination. The plane had begun to taxi to the runway. As the plane continued on the runway, I slowly became scared. Not of flying, which I had done countless times by that point, but of the future. Of starting a new life.
That plane took off from Frankfurt Main Airport on a cool August morning. It landed about nine hours later in Newark International Airport. My father had recently been transferred back to the New Jersey branch of his company and now here we were, ready to start a new life, leaving behind one of my homes. The fear of leaving everything I knew behind was immense. What I did not know at the time was that I would slowly develop my own life here in America, but also keep in touch with my life in Germany.
The result of that move was not the replacement of a home but the addition of another.