As hard as it sometimes is for me to believe, I’m now in my fourteenth year of living in London. I came under the pretence of starting a Ph.D in Latin American literature, which I never actually started, and I suppose in the early years there was always a sense that once I’d had my fill of the great British adventure, like any sensible American, I should go home and bemuse people with my vast knowledge of worldly things and alternative words for things like trash, elevator, and underwear. Of course, over the years I have gone home and bemused people in one way or another, but on each of those trips there has never been a moment where I thought, Ok . . . this feels right again. This is my home and I should BE here! On the contrary, in many ways America only began to feel more and more foreign to me, and although it has at times been hard to live so far away from my family whom I love dearly, it has been a very long time now since I saw America as my home. Of course, I’ve learned with time and experience that one can have quite a few homes, and they really do not necessarily have anything to do with your passport. The old saying ‘home is where the heart is’ may look naff when cross-stitched and hung up in a frame over someone’s toilet, but the saying couldn’t be more true. And if you’re someone who has a tendency to leave your heart in a lot of different places, it’s easy to find yourself with a lot of places to call home. Which is why I have always found it comforting that every time I head back to the states for a visit, the immigration officer who scans my passport invariably says ‘welcome home Mr. Peyton.’ In the early years I almost felt inclined to correct them, and show them my UK residency visa! How dare they not see that I was a citizen of the world – a man of vast experience in foreign places who had long ago left America and its self-absorbed vulgar ways! But more recently I have come to expect it, almost to the point of taking offense if they don’t say it. Welcome home Mr. Peyton! For all my love of Australia, Egypt, the Czech Republic, and even the UK where I pay my taxes and really do own an actual pile of bricks commonly referred to as my ‘home’ . . . all places in the world where I really have left pieces of my heart and feel very much at home . . . there is nowhere else in the world where upon arrival, an immigration officer takes one look at my passport and utters those strangely comforting words: welcome home! Long ago I stopped taking offence and realised just how lucky I am to have so many people and places in the world that I truly love. And now, those words immediately fill my heart with a sense of belonging and gratitude, and I’m able to look that officer in the eye with a big genuine smile on my face and say, ‘thank you . . . it’s good to be home!’
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