Monday, June 29, 2015

Returning Home

I returned home last Wednesday after spending 12 days in my passport country with family and friends. I love spending time with "my people," but I do not share the excitement and enthusiasm most other expats feel when they return to their passport countries. Therefore this will not be one of those gushing posts about how great life in America is.

I need to repeat myself so any of "my people" who might read this will hopefully understand - the time I spent with them was fabulous: at my daughter's graduation, the party my parents hosted for her, the leisurely evenings hanging out with my parents, best friend, and one or both children, the afternoon and evening with my son and daughter in Appleton the Saturday before graduation, walking around my parents' neighborhood, playing dominoes and cards, the 24 hours I spent in Fond du Lac with my two best friends and our mini roadtrip around the area, the meals we prepared and the four we went out for... It was quality time with everyone, and I appreciate the time they took off work and out of their routine to spend with me!

The main reason I can't gush about being back in the U.S. is that I don't like myself much when I'm there. I'm irritable and critical, and I say things that are unnecessary. I need to practice keeping my mouth shut and just smiling. Back in high school I learned how quickly people tire of hearing about what things are like in other countries, and these days I am exquisitely happy at home in Germany - so I try not to talk about my life much. I know I fail at that often, but I think I'm getting a little better with each visit. I'm acutely conscious of hearing myself start to say, "In Germany...", and it makes me feel guilty.

I am only fully myself and content when I'm at home with M. When I'm away I miss the rhythm of our rather dull routine. Nowhere else does the bed feel just right, the pillow is fluffy and inviting, the coffee is delicious, the shower is calibrated to my preference, the laundry detergent smells like it should, and the sofa is perfect for a nap. There is nothing wrong with the beds, pillows, coffee, shower, laundry soap or sofas* where I stay in Wisconsin. But it's not home.

*And in fact, my best friend's sofa is MUCH more comfortable than ours!

I remember my mom telling me years ago after one of their two-week trips overseas that she was always glad to return home again, despite having had a really nice trip. While I lived in Wisconsin and only visited Germany once or twice a year, I couldn't understand her. Now I do.

There was one extreme positive I experienced in Wisconsin that had nothing to do with "my people": Driving. It was truly fabulous to be able to get into a car and drive on highways and the freeway (Autobahn) without fearing for my life, holding my breath every time an oncoming car or truck passed, or suspecting that every curve meant some oncoming fool overtaking where he shouldn't and endangering everyone else around him. The streets and lanes are so deliciously wide and the comforting shoulders (Sandstreifen) are there for the using in case of emergency.  Good Lord, the freedom! The lack of stress and tension! Being able to listen to music while driving and sing along rather than only hearing my tinnitus and terrified pounding heart...

Look at this residential street - it's almost twice as wide as
highways in Germany!

Sheboygan Marina

Sheboygan, on the shore of Lake Michigan
Photo credit: M

My parents' neighborhood - huge houses and yards the size of small parks.
I walked the circle several times a day but rarely saw anyone outside
except those who were mowing or watering plants.
Photo Credit: M

The weather was beautiful the whole time I was there, we had delicious meals, several of which were childhood favorites of mine (Sloppy Joes, homemade Spaghetti, grilled beef tenderloin), there was a lot of time for relaxing and shopping for cheap affordable clothing, and I ate so much string cheese and squeaky cheese curds that my digestive system didn't right itself until about three days after I returned. 

There was much to enjoy and appreciate when I wasn't irritating myself by being someone I don't like, but nothing more than the people with whom I spent my time. I don't know when I'll be back, but it may be a while. I'm now looking forward to some of "my people" visiting us here in Germany, though that means they have to leave their homes and the places they are most comfortable.

It was a nice visit, a very special occasion, and I am also glad to be home.

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