Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Challenges (and Benefits) of Coming Home

Greg & I were both focused on resting and recuperating, trying to recover from severe allergies and related illness as well as general fatigue, the first few weeks we were in the U.S. As I write this now, we've been home three full weeks. The time has really flown by and it feels like we just landed a few days ago!

Home is a relative term for both of us, but especially for me. My immediate family (mom & step-dad, dad & step-mom, sister & nephews, and two grandmothers) all live within 50 miles of Nashville, TN. However I have not been a TN resident for more than 10 years. After selling everything I was willing to part with and quitting my job in New York City in September, 2009, I moved what few material possessions I had left to my grandmother's garage. I do have odds & ends things stored at my mom's house, but generally everything I own fits into the equivalent of a 10x10 storage unit.
the "old" barn and some of the goats at my step-dad Ronnie's farm in Springfield, TN
With no "home" of our own, Greg & I are both living with family members until we decide what to do next; Greg with his parents in Old Hickory and me with my paternal grandmother in Hermitage. The night of May 4th represented the first time Greg & I have slept in separate rooms, especially in different locations, since we left the U.S. last July 31st. Even when we stayed in hostel dorm beds we were still in the same room! And while occasionally during the trip I woke up and wasn't sure where I was at, I was somewhat surprised to wake up during the middle of the first night at my grandmother's house (the closest place to a TN home for me for many years) and not have a clue as to where I was!
the Nashville Parthenon - taken last July a few weeks before we left on our RTW trip
Even the simplest things become challenges when you've been living out of a backpack for the past nine months. During that time, I had virtually no choice as to what to wear as I was only carrying a total of about five outfits. Now I am confronted with drawers & closets full of clothes & shoes. Picking out earrings or putting on makeup is suddenly a chore!
living out of this bag for nine months meant few wardrobe options
Another obstacle is transportation. After months of traveling everywhere on foot or via public transportation and only renting a car when we deemed it necessary to maximize our sightseeing opportunities, I am now in a place that is almost 100% dependent on using a private vehicle to go anywhere. Even a simple task, like buying a few groceries, now requires a car. One of the first days I was home I walked half a mile from my grandmother's house to the Hermitage library, something I have done before. But instead of it being an enjoyable stroll as it would be in most cities in Europe, here it is almost a death-defying act as there are no sidewalks nor pedestrian crosswalks on the heavily-traveled road.
is this too much to ask for???
I kept a journal for the first full week we were home (04-11MAY). When I look back at my notes from that week, it reminds me of the lyrics to a country music song! I spent a few nights at my grandmother's house and the remainder at my mom's house. Nothing extraordinary except for the seemingly rapid succession of dramatic events that unfolded in a matter of days: tornado sirens in Springfield (luckily just for testing); the unexpected death and subsequent burial of a goat; a power outage that forced me to cook an entire Mother's Day brunch (made-to-order omelets, cinnamon-raisin toast, bacon) on an outdoor grill; a leaky shower faucet for which we ignored the directions (Step 1: call a professional plumber) and fixed ourselves; and a non-working air conditioner that quickly had my grandmother's thermostat reading 85 degrees (and DID require a professional to fix). Whew! So you can't exactly call my first week at home relaxing!
Nothing beats made-from-scratch apple & pecan pies. Thanks, Mom!!!
After a few days back in Hermitage, and a quick visit with my dad, I got a ride up to Clarksville, TN to visit with my best friend, Amy. While we didn't have too much planned for the week, we found ourselves busy every day in some way or another: attending her girls' field day & awards day at school; cooking Wednesday night supper at her church; taking the girls to Gateway Cast and Crowns for dance lessons and to audition for Cinderella; hosting an "epic" Southside Spirit Fest (54 people attended); vacation planning (we're going to Denver in mid-June); and many other fun & interesting activities.
Amy & I are ready for the Southside Spirit Fest
Greg, for his part, decided to drive up to the Smoky Mountains to hike Mt LeConte with a group organized by Hermitage United Methodist Church. I was sad not to be able to experience this with him, but happy that he got to enjoy something on his own and still have fond memories of making the same trip together in 2009.
Greg & I on Mt LeConte - May 22, 2009
We are headed up to my mom's house again for Memorial Day weekend. Hopefully it will involve much more relaxing on the wrap-around porch versus physical labor & emotional drama than our last visit. Greg & I have been busy planning our next "steps" so I will try to write more about that in my next post. Until then!

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