On Monday afternoon, the kids and I arrived back “home”. Home as defined by me. Not my kids. Though Liam was incredibly excited the notion of going back home. Aidan…not so much. The idea of spending his whole summer vacation in this super boring place where we always do the same thing every single year (his words, not mine) was not his idea of a good time.
This year for the most part, we have come without a schedule. It’s hard for me to be spontaneous but on day 2, I’m already starting to see our days ahead filling up with fun things to do. And I love that it all came together naturally without me having to go back and forth between 50 different people to make things happen on the right day at the right time. And for that, I feel a lot of relief.
But it’s never enough time. Never. There will be people who will be disappointed we didn’t see them, or didn’t see them enough. I won’t win this one. I never do. But I will do my best and I suppose that’s all I can do.
However, this time of trying to do things spontaneously is also making me feel more relaxed about this trip. I didn’t expect that. Every year I’m filled with the stress of my schedule and while I enjoy the times with the people I see, it’s not relaxed time for me. It has felt too forced and overly organized. I don’t mean the conversations are forced, but the idea of fitting people into these little boxes of time and hoping that will be good enough. But it’s not and in a way it’s almost insulting to our family and friends to try and do it that way. So we’ll see how this new “method” of less planning will go this year.
There are a few things that we planned in advance though (I mean, you know me, did you really think the calendar would be completely empty???). Knowing that we are closing on our house in 2 weeks means that the house needs to get cleaned out. This being our 6th move in 5 1/2 years, somehow Josh is always missing from each one. Which means it falls to me. I’m incredibly lucky to have some awesome friends and family who have been helping me with these last bits to get the house cleaned out during our first few days here so that we can move on with enjoying the trip. Next year when we have to move again (our lease in the Netherlands will be up), I’m leaving that all to Josh… it’s his turn.
But here’s the thing – I’m enjoying the time with family and friends even if it means we are working at the same time. The pace is not frantic. The job needs to get done, but it needs to get done within 2 weeks – beyond manageable (especially as my hope is that by day 2 we’ll be 90% there if not completely there) and it means that I feel less pressure. Even as we enter day 2, I feel more relaxed in general.
We have some bbqs that friends and family have planned in advance. And we know we will be on the Cape the entire week that Josh is here. I’m taking the kids to CT this weekend to meet up halfway with a friend from NY. And then on to Western MA to meet up with my best college friends and their families for the day. But beyond that, not a whole lot. And I’m excited to spend better quality time with the people I love without the stress of my schedule ruling my world.
And Aidan? His attitude changed the moment we set foot on US soil. The excitement in his eyes is hard to miss. He spent all of the first full day with his best friend. A friend that he had told me he wasn’t sure he would connect with as much now that they are getting older and don’t see or speak to each other beyond this one time of year. It was different when they were little he said, and when we hadn’t been gone for so long. But now? Like I expected (but he didn’t), it was as if no time had passed at all this year. I feel bad that he was stressed about it and think it may have contributed to his apprehension of going home this year. I was so focused on the move that I didn’t get any pictures of them yesterday but will have to try better today!
I still love all the things we talk about over the course of each day. Things that to me are so American but to them are in a sense foreign. Whether it be stores – Mom, what is Macy’s? Or houses – Mom, is that a mansion? (to which the answer is no, that’s just how most Americans live). Or the wide eyed delight as they walk into Target or the first time in a year. What their obsession is with Target is beyond me, but it’s on the must do list each year. To see the giant display of Pokemon cards for Liam was like a dream come true especially since he was adamant that they would not have Pokemon in the US (to which I had told him there was very little he’d not be able to find here at home). To see the familiarity in their eyes when we go somewhere that they remember from years gone by. Or when we go somewhere they have yet to discover. It’s like a whole new world on each visit and yet, there is a comfort in the familiar at the same time.
It feels good to be home. For me, it feels good to be in English. I know that living in a foreign language is part of overseas life, but it’s emotionally and physically exhausting at times. So to be able to communicate freely and without shame in my own language, it just feels amazing. Funny enough, that was also part of Aidan’s lack of desire to come here – he didn’t want to be in a place where everyone spoke English – he prefers the differences. How different we are in our perspectives.
It also feels good to me to be surrounded by friends and family. I feel like I’ve spent too much time mourning the loss of the friends that haven’t “made it” through our transition overseas. And there are a few. But I haven’t spent nearly enough time embracing those that time after time are there for me – whether a phone call on my birthday, help with my millionth move, instant messaging, listening to me moan and groan about our challenges abroad… whatever it is, they’ve been there. And I’m hoping to really start focusing on that positive this year rather than feeling negative about those lost along the way.
Kind of like with my time in the Netherlands, I think I’ve found my turning point here at home (it only took 5 1/2 years). I’ve been looking at it all wrong when I’m here. It’s not about how much I can schedule in just a few weeks or trying to see everyone. There are going to be some years where I don’t see some people and some years where I don’t see others. It’s life. And I need to stop beating myself up over it and making to the point where I no longer enjoy my visits home because they stress me out to much. I needed this trip home badly this year to relax and enjoy my friends and family. And that is what I intend to do!
Knuffels en kussen,