Right now I’m on Southwest flight #923 from LAX to Oakland with a final destination of Portland, Oregon. A dear friend of mine from college hails from the Bay area. He is a proud A’s fan and a very sweet man who will undoubtedly scoff at that adjective. Sitting on the tarmac in his city makes me think about home. The idea of it and its actualization.

Each member of my family has Midwest roots, some shallower than others, but even my brother, who wasn’t even three when we moved to California, still calls Indiana home. But my mom, her roots run real deep into the rich, damp earth of Michigan. She’s been planning a family reunion from 2,382 miles away. She has spent many late nights hunched over an extensive family tree, cross hatched into a maze with two sisters who fell in love with two brothers. Meal planning, event planning, fielding phone calls and answering emails. It wasn’t until she started this arduous task that I realized just how hard our move to Southern California has been.

When we first relocated to the concrete wilds of Los Angeles County, my aunt sent my mom a framed photograph, taken as she laid down on the ground under a tree. The entire picture is leaves and a bright blue sky. At the time, I thought it was a joke, a loving jab at my mom for trading in her farm-raised childhood home for Hollywood grit. Now I realize it was a lifeline, a little bit of home, something for those roots to cling to in the barren landscape of the Mojave.

When people ask me where I’m from, I have a hard time giving them an answer. I’m from Gary, Indiana. Steel and Lutheran green JELL-O potlucks run thick in my veins. I’ll be a Chicago Cubs fan until the day I die. I moved to the desert north of LA when I was in second grade, where I added hot breezes, cool nights and wildfires to my identity. And then for college, I moved south settling into the surf and the best tacos on this side of the Mexican border.

There is no easy answer. No two word fragment to explain where home is for me, but the feeling I get when I step off of a plane in Indiana is nearly identical to the one I feel when I land in LA. My bones settle in a way than they don’t anywhere else. I belong.

By Rachel Brandt

Rachel is a Midwest native transplanted in the wild of Southern California, mama bear to one blonde firecracker and three mutts. photographer by trade and writer by nature. She's enamored with whimsy, public libraries, the Chicago Cubs, Netflix, tea, and the sound of a jet engine from inside the airplane.

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