I've only spent one week in the U.S. in the last two years. There are two things that I'm finding incredibly weird: one, there are many, many people, places and things that are exactly the same. It's like I only ran to the store, and have come back to find things just as I left them. I mean, really, NOTHING has changed. Many of my family and friends are quite literally doing exactly the same things, living and working in the same places. It's. . .weird. I know that if we were here, it would be true for us, too, but we've made all of these changes and lived so much in the last two years, and it freaks me out a little to think that if we hadn't left, we would have simply aged two more years.
The second thing that I am finding weird is how emotional I get over the little things I've missed, like the guy at the gas station telling me to have a nice day (people in Europe don't tell you to have a nice day--ever; customer service with a smile is largely an American concept), or the fact I can buy chipotle peppers in adobo in my small town grocery store in northern New England, or how far $10 gets me here. America, how I have missed you!
And so it is good to be here, but also a bit. . .melancholy, for some reason. I don't know what I expected. I guess I expected something to be different because I am different, we are different. I expected more, although I'm not quite sure what that might be. Did I expect it to be more special? I suppose that is it. We've been gone for two years; we've come with two children, one of whom had never been to the U.S. until now; we are older and wiser and have had all of these great experiences. It feels rather ordinary. It also is a bit depressing to me to see how little people have spread their wings since we left. I think that is the hardest part.
That's not to say that we are not having a nice time. It's been nice to see family and friends. The kids are having a good time, and everyone seems to be enjoying them. We've been eating our weight in things that we've missed (candy corn; barbecue; American Chinese food; American breakfasts; pastries from my favorite scratch bakery). We've been doing fun stuff, too--a bit of shopping (new jeans!); long walks through the woods admiring the foliage; trips to the children's museum; swimming in the lake; playing with new toys; and generally mucking about. Tomorrow we are going to a country fair.
I suppose the beauty of this trip home really is in the ordinary-ness of it all, and that this is what we have missed and this is what we are here for. I just need to embrace that more fully. It will probably be easier as a bit of time passes. The transition is still fresh and a bit jarring, and I am still sleep deprived. Changing time zones with kids apparently takes days!