The trip I was dreading is behind me. The trip that saw our 13 year old dog with congestive heart failure confined to a mesh carrier, jammed under an airplane seat, with no bathroom breaks for ten hours, is over. She came through it like the champ she is. I did give her water a few times and tried to get her to go potty in the airplane bathroom on the pee-pee pads I had stashed in my carry-on, but she would have none of it. I spread the pad out on the disgusting bathroom floor and put her on it, coaxing her in my best doggie-mommy voice to pee-pee, and she sat on the nice white pad and looked at me and wagged her tail. Then she crawled back into her carrier and curled up and went to sleep. I think her body goes into a kind of hibernation when she gets on the plane. At least that’s what I tell myself to make me feel better.
We’ve been back a little over a week and have adjusted very nicely, I think. We had Thanksgiving with our family, drinks with friends, dinner with friends, more drinks with friends, and more dinners with friends and family. We’ve seen all our grandchildren (except for the oldest who is working in Connecticut and will visit after Christmas). We’ve hugged, kissed, and laughed.
Our circadian rhythms have returned to normal, although Millie is still waking up at 5:00 am for a bathroom break. We relish the temperant Georgia climate, sitting outside on the porch until nightfall. We take note of the little things that we didn’t know we missed -robins, bluejays, squirrels (can’t say that we’ve missed them, but it is strangely delightful to see them) – and relish in the things that we definitely have missed. We go to the enormous US grocery stores and look in awe at all the offerings, shocked at how much more expensive it is here.
Our first day on Georgia soil, we had drinks with our dear, dear friends. Walking into their house was like having a familiar dream – so natural but still not quite real. How many times have I walked through that door and had fantastic meals, drinks, or just chats? Jet-lagged and tired from the trip, we felt rejuvenated seeing these cherished faces and wrapped our arms around them for the first time in months. We felt comfortable and loved and secure. We felt at home.
Sixteen months is a long time. Imagine a baby born the day we left. It would likely be toddling around now, grabbing everything in sight, babbling away about important baby stuff, becoming a real person. Its face would have changed, features becoming more definable, hair no longer downy fluff. It could even have a little brother or sister. Sixteen months is a long time. I look at my friends and see the subtle changes, as they see them in me. I look at my grandchildren and see adults starting to form from the children I left here. Where I used to see the tops of heads, I now see faces. My youngest grandson, all of 13, is just inches shorter than me. He takes great delight in standing next to me, posture never better to try and stretch out his body to gain the height he needs to see the top of my head. He will see it soon enough.
Our friends had a welcome back dinner for us that was everything I had imagined it would be. From the cocktails to the last bite of creme caramel, it was a feast in every sense. I had requested shrimp etouffee, one of my very favorite dishes. My friend Catherine, a New Orleans native, is one of the best cooks I’ve ever encountered. She’s one of those people who makes it all look so effortless and it’s always deliciousness on a plate. Being around this table with these people was like time travel. Everything was familiar, but new and different as well. I am amazed at how right everything seems here – like I never left. Yet there’s something not quite real about it all, as if it’s a wonderful dream that I’ll wake from and remember for a long time.
So far my reverse vacation is a good one. Every now and then I have flashes of Anghiari and my house there. Hoping everything is alright. But like any good vacation, reverse or otherwise, my worries and fears have mostly abated and I’m enjoying being right where I am.