A big part of traveling, so often neglected in thought and in writing, is the coming home part. Even if “home” is not a place you live anymore, every one of us has a “home”, a ground zero, a place where we came from, and where, like it or not, we can come back to and regroup. The older I get and the more I travel, the more I enjoy reflecting on how I feel after returning. (Besides salty, sandy in places, and with clothes that could stand up on their own and walk to a washer…)
My home base for the last 14 years has been Boston, a nice enough place to return to now and then. I’ve returned in tears, determined to leave again as soon as possible, and I’ve returned gratefully, joyfully comprehending how some people bend down and kiss their native ground. (Come to think of it, I was returning from the same place both of those times, just one year apart…but that’s another story!)
This time around, I am fully embracing our return state-side–it is going to be short, so it will also be sweet. The most notable parts of this return from the Caribbean to Boston:
- Whole Foods Market The fruit and veggie rainbow, the shiny-everything, the sheer audacity to stock an entire world’s worth of items…Whole Foods is a dangerous place for me. I spend more at Whole Foods than I do on clothes, shoes, purses….its like my mother ship. I worship at an alter of unseasonably-ripe champagne mangoes and fill my cart with $6 dragon fruit, still-warm baguettes and rosé. Whole Foods–hedonism at its absolute finest.
- Mirrors Our mirrors on Robin Hood are foggy and dark. I don’t usually think this at the time…I just glance in them occasionally–very occasionally–and think, “wow I look fantastic! Must be the sun!” Then I return to the US and am reminded that the sun does one’s appearance no long-term favors. Either Boston doesn’t look too good on me, or we need some better mirrors on board. (Or maybe I’m onto something and foggy mirrors are the key to ultimate self-confidence and happiness…) Upon our return, my mother-in-law kindly/gently suggested I take time on our very first day to go get my hair done. I replied that I could wait a few days if that was better for her schedule…and she said “no, you should go right away!!”
- Car Seats Rocky spent the past 5 months bouncing along in my lap. I usually buckled myself and wore him strapped in his Beco Baby carrier. He is NOT a fan of this return to safe, legal, baby car travel. I’ve spent our weeks in America trying to limit our time in cars, as it seems to be the only thing that makes this happy cheerful kid cry.
- Cleanliness Everything is spotless, and if it’s not, then you assume someone isn’t doing his or her job. In America, I’m genuinely offended by roadside litter and I’m not afraid to look in the ditches for fear of seeing dead animals or abandoned puppies. I don’t check patches of grass for broken glass, and I set the baby down to crawl without first checking for stray rusty nails. This isn’t just about the outside world, either–I am personally much cleaner in America, its just a fact. Back-of-the-boat showers are tough to beat on the idyllic scale, but then you come home and someone asks if you are “one of those salty, sun drenched people”… I think he meant to say, “Hey this is America, go waste some water in a long hot shower!”
- Rules In Antigua, we once asked the drinking age, just out of curiosity. “Drinking age? There is no drinking age…but I’d say as long as you look around age 14, you’ll be served…” was the bartender’s response! In America there are rules and laws that everyone obeys. This is a given that we all know and accept. We got to talking about this while discussing with the boys why they must return to their car seats and stop peeing anywhere that strikes their fancy. In much of the world, this common sense safety and public decency stuff is left to parents. It sounds reasonable, right? Then again, get my kids talking long enough and they’ll regale you with a few stories that might make you think I need the laws of America. In Antigua, to-go drinks are the norm, and our one taxi crash happened in a seat-belt-less taxi. In the BVI, seatbelts are mandatory but so are roadies. Go figure.
- Tall trees, the smell of the seasons One thing I will always love about both my adulthood “home” in New England and my childhood home in North Florida is the abundance of tall beautiful trees! They are truly under-rated by some other parts of this planet. Breathing in the sweet, dirty, green air is a beautiful thing. Feeling the change of seasons (sometimes daily) is a wonderful feeling. Just don’t get too nostalgic and hug any without checking for ants. Trust me.
- It even sounds clean We arrive home and by the following day we are back in our nice, big SUV. The boys are in their car seats, watching their individual car TVs through wireless Bose headphones, with their personal library of books that we keep back there for them. One thing you realize after being away is that American cars always have that new car smell. There’s no old-world diesel floating on a sticky breeze. The roads are smooth, quiet to cruise down. They’re also tree-lined. Even city streets are quiet compared to Caribbean car cruising, which often involves a medley of honks ranging from “watch out” honks to “heeeeyyyyy!” honks. If you stop on a Caribbean street it’s more often because a crowd of animals is crossing the road than for a red light, and you take the opportunity to talk to whomever is nearby. Background noise ranges from the thrum thrum of Caribbean beats to Eminem, Beyoncé, and Christian talk radio coming from other cars, or just kids hanging out. The air is thick with spices. The comparative silence in an American car filled with typically-noisy toddlers is astounding.
In spite of all the ease and beauty and clean air that awaits us in America, it is never long before the itch to leave again intrudes into my quiet, clean, smoke-free Starbucks bubble. I’m lucky my husband agrees, the jury is still out on my kids…though I’m typing this in 63 degree weather, watching two barefoot, swimsuit-clad boys playing at the local park. There is hope for them, for sure!