After 11 months on the road we finally returned home on July 18.
The kids were thrilled to be home in their own bedrooms and among their friends. Their joy softened the blow for Kerry and me -- especially Kerry since the return home meant an imminent return to work.
But as we were coming home I thought of some of the things that I really missed about home:
- Friends and neighbours - While the year was fantastic, nothing really beats getting together with friends, seeing your neighbours on the street and stopping for a chat, and running into people you know when you're out and about. While I do believe a sense of community can be developed anywhere, we weren't anywhere long enough to properly develop one, and I missed mine.
- Being closer to Dad - After Mom died I felt so very far from him. After what must have been a long and lonely winter, he had a couple of minor health issues. It helped that he came to see us in Europe and that we could all go on the cruise together (I'm so happy that he did), but he still seemed far.
- Being in my own kitchen - Using sharp knives, having some baking staples and spices on hand, drinking from my favourite coffee mug...the list could go on.
- Knowing how the washing machine works and being able to tell the difference between laundry detergent and fabric softener. It's hard work figuring out different styles of washing machines in different languages. And I have no clue how many times we may have confused detergent with softener. On the plus side, only one machine ever wrecked any clothes, and fortunately the part of that load that bore the brunt was entirely made up of underwear.
- Having a junk drawer - Every home has one. That place where you find paperclips, tape, thread, envelopes, and other little bits that come in handy in everyday life.
- Having closets for clothes. Not everywhere we stayed had closet space for us. We easily made due, but it's so much nicer having a closet and a chest of drawers.
- Doing projects in the home: scrapbooking, sewing, making jelly, baking, gardening, painting rooms, etc. All the good and fun things to do at home.
- Appreciating the little moments together. Being with each other all the time meant that Kerry and I let the kids watch tv at breakfast, play a computer game while we blogged or skimmed the news because we were going to be with each for the rest of today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. I felt like we got complacent about good family-building habits like eating meals together, discussing our days, or playing games together, because frankly, at the end of the day, we all knew what everybody had done all day and kind of needed some time apart.
- The house, the yard, the space......
Of course, there are also the things that I didn't necessarily miss, but now that we are home, I'm looking forward to.
- The return to routine - It's nice to settle home and know that routines are returning: the summer routine of knocking on neighbours' doors to see if anyone can play outside, of finding people to hang out with at playgrounds or spray parks, and soon, the return to the school routine including after school activities.
- Letting the kids resume their lives that are independent of Kerry and me - The kids missed being away from us. Not in a long-term ready to move out sense, but just being able to do simple things on their own, such as, walking to a friend's house, walking to the park, playing outside without our direct supervision, sleeping over night at a friend's house, etc.
Of course, there are the things that I'm happy to be done with:
- Renting our house - Our tenants were good. The house was standing and in good repair when we returned. They paid their rent on time, mostly. They were good neighbours. But when a toilet on the main floor broke (within the first three weeks they were here) releasing more water than you can imagine into our basement leading to an early morning cleanup, and then construction disruption with a basement refinish, and new flooring on the main floor, it's tough to build a warm and fuzzy relationship. I am very happy though the the relationship endured and they stuck out the tenancy.
- Unschooling-homeschooling - I'm relieved that the responsibility for the kids' education returns to trained professionals come September. Ecole Tricky Nag left a lot to be desired. I will likely do a blog post on this once I have gauged the extent of my failure after the kids have started school.
- Packing - I'm thrilled that we left with a suitcase and backpack each, and returned home with only that suitcase and backpack each, but the packing of those suitcases was no easy chore. They were packed as full as they could be and everything had its spot. Shortly after Christmas, we became much bigger fans of staying in one spot for longer simply to avoid the dreaded task of hauling our gear and unpacking and packing it. It felt great to do that final unpack at home, and even find some little tucked away treasures we'd long forgotten.
But, the things I started to dread pale in comparison to what I loved about the year:
- Getting to see Kerry together with the kids day in and day out. I've always known he was more than capable of doing my jobs, but it was still fantastic to see just how capable he was. It also became very apparent which two people in our family are virtually the same person. I've seen bits of this similarity, but this year amplified the similarity. I won't reveal the two people because one does not view it as much of a compliment, even though it is.
- Getting to see the kids day in and day out. School robs the best part of a kid's day. Though there were days we all could have used a bit more distance from each other, I did love seeing so much of the kids for so long. And even though I'm happy about their return to school, I'm going to miss hanging out with them all day, every day.
- Seeing so many different living spaces - all of which were much smaller and compact compared to our home - and finding out what we liked and didn't like. It was fun getting a glimpse into how other people live and use their space.
- Learning about so many different places in the world, how histories of different countries are linked, seeing the impact of one nation's actions on another, and seeing the impact of colonialism through the eyes of both the colony and the conqueror. We saw how mean people can be to each other, and how incredibily kind and considerate they can be. I found the most fascinating contrast in Japan while watching the American primaries. We were surrounded by a nation of incredibly polite and considerate people who act for the common good above all else, yet watching a nation of relative libertarians where people seem to admire a loudmouth who tells people exactly what he thinks.
- Seeing what so many different places are like at the exact same time. I feel quite privileged to have experienced this, and it was something that never crossed my mind before leaving. With most holidays you can compare the part of the world you're seeing today, with a different part you say last year, or even years ago. It was quite fantastic comparing different places within weeks of each other.
- Seeing how living pretty much stress free is so good for a person. Kerry noticed this result more than the rest of us. His job is hard on his system. I hope he remembers this and takes note on returning to work. And of course, I'll be here to remind him.
- Having the distance from the drama and garbage of everyday life - the getting wound up about things that seem super important, but really aren't. Now that I think about this one, it's probably related to the less stress comment above. But I have to say, I didn't miss getting sucked into the drama surrounding a variety of things that at the end of the day, don't really matter. I've always thought I was pretty good at avoiding this type of drama, and at choosing friends who help me avoid the drama. But now that I've been away from it for a year, I've seen room for improvement.
And finally, a year away from life must have taught certain lessons about life. This is what I've learned, or at least have had proven true:
- You can be happy anywhere when you're with the people you love.
- You can live anywhere, you just have to spend some time to find and nurture your community.
- It's easy to get home if you need to, and even easier to stay in touch with the help of modern technology
- When kids don't get enough sleep, they really do look and act like they have ADHD and it's not always a obvious that it is the tired monster.
- If your parents' 20 acres and home of over 45 years needs cleaning out, that job will still be there, waiting for you, upon your return.