Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Going home

I spent the better part of this morning's breakfast hour prancing around the flat and singing America from West Side Story in an abominably awful Puerto Rican accent. My kids were amused at first, then a bit condescending ("you could at least pronounce America right, Mom," Julia grumbled), but they understood why I was acting so uncharacteristically giddy before I'd even had my morning coffee. We're all a little excited about the fact that we're going to set foot on American soil tomorrow for the first time in nearly seven months.

For the next two and a half weeks, we'll be in the States for our first return visit since moving to London, initially with my parents in New York and then with friends and family in New Jersey. Do you know what that means? That means that for the next two and a half weeks, I'll be greeted by loud New York accents rather than polite British silence (ah, brusque New Yorkers, I've missed you so...). I'll be able to flush public toilets with my toe and I'll know instinctively which way to look before I cross the street. I can let my kids out to play in the backyard alone and I won't have to press a single uniform. I'll be able to pay for things without surreptitiously trying to find the number on each coin to make sure I've counted out the right amount first. I'll drive to my destinations and I'll shop at Target and Trader Joe's. I'll be surrounded by people I love and places that are as familiar and comfortable to me as my own skin. I. can't. wait.

Packing! I should be packing right now! And yet, what do I need to pack, really? Empty suitcases to lug back all of the life necessities I plan to purchase at rock bottom American prices in the next few weeks? An outfit or two to get us over the hump until I can get to the mall are really all we need. (Everything's free in A-mer-i-ca!) And so instead, I am spending the time before we depart doing what I do best: obsessing about what's to come. (That and dozens of little loads of laundry. I am just too proud to arrive at my mother's house towing bags of dirty clothing like a college student.) Because as much as I can't wait to get to the States? I'm terrified of how I'm going to feel once I get there.

In the past month or two, London has really begun to feel a bit like home. I've made great strides in figuring out how to live here and I've gone so far as to start to enjoy it. Yes, there is a major part of me that craves the coming weeks, that can't wait to be in comfortable and familiar surroundings with comfortingly familiar people. But there is also a piece of me who worries that going back to the States right now will upset the applecart just enough that I'll have to start all over again adjusting myself to British life when we return. As much as I can't wait to reinsert myself into a world I love and miss, I worry about whether I'll enjoy myself too much, at the expense of the world I'm building here. I'm afraid that once I get there, I simply won't want to leave. A little taste of all I've left behind may be the kiss of death for the fragile existence I've made for myself in London.

There is also another concern, and it's one I'm afraid to even whisper aloud. But it's the one, if I'm being honest, that worries me the most. I've spent the past months here reminding myself of the life that awaits me back in the States. "It's OK if I never fully fit into social circles here," I've assured myself more times than I can count, "and it's OK if I never feel fully at ease here. I have a place where I belong that I can return to." That knowledge, and the phone calls, emails, cards and letters I've received from friends and family back in the US, have gotten me through more uncertain and overwhelming days here than I can count. And now? Well, what happens if I get back to that familiar world and discover that even though it hasn't changed, I have? What happens if I come to find that I don't actually belong anywhere any more?

One thing is for certain; I can't wait to get home. But what I think I'm going to figure out over the next few weeks is whether that's going to happen when we touch down in the US tomorrow, whether it's going to happen when we touch down in the UK eighteen days later, or whether it's simply not going to happen anywhere at all for a very long time. And that's a question that I'm not sure I'm ready to know the answer to just yet.

10 Comments:

Blogger slboval said...

Rebecca, you will be welcomed back-both in Am-er-i-ca, as well as back here. You are a treasure! Enjoy every minute of the next 18 days. And, please don't forget the Annie's Mac & Cheese! hugs, Sam

4:09 PM  
Blogger Lindyloo said...

Have fun!! I'm soooo envious, 18 whole days in America!! Ooooh think of me when your in Target. All those lovely things all in one store. Oh and malls and the cheaper than cheap clothes and the SHOES!! Oh the shoes....I'm feeling a bit faint.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

I have a good feeling that you will reinsert yourselves right back in with your family and friends when you get back to the States. Just as you have picked right back up where you left off when having friends visit you over there, you'll jump right back in here, too. Have a wonderful time! Enjoy every minute of it!

5:24 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Yea, yea, yea, yea!!!!! I'm bringing myself out of lurker-dom for the second time since you left to tell you how excited I am! I can't wait to see you and give you a huge hug and give and get all of the much needed updates that never quite happen because I'm too lazy to write you an e-mail. I told the kids and they are thrilled (although Jake thinks that you are staying here and Eric thinks that you are already on your way...). I miss you tons and am so excited that you are coming back for a visit! I've got major perma-smile....

6:08 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Oh, but don't forget the next line of the song: Everything free in America...for a small fee in Ah-MEHR-REE-ca!" ;) I know you'll step right back into life with your friends and family "back home". But I'd be willing to bet you'll find yourself missing some things about London as well. I can't wait to hear the details.

Safe travels!

p.s. Target! Enjoy!

2:39 AM  
Blogger Rosemary said...

I was wondering from one of your posts on the board about a family dinner... It was so interesting to read your thoughts about "home". I look forward to reading your posts from eca and when you get back to London.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Liesl said...

Welcome back to the State of Many Shopping Malls - enjoy your trip and time at home :)

7:44 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I hope you are having an excellent time! We parents are flying into the UK on tomorrow. Cannot wait. :)

London Southern Belle ;)

6:49 PM  
Blogger Ginger said...

Delurking here: "There are no cats in America and the streets are lined with Cheese". I'm sorry. When I read your post ths song from An American Tail just popped into my head.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Gretchen C. said...

I'm chiming in super late on this one, but your remarks about not feeling at home anywhere remind me SO much of the John Irving novel "A Son of the Circus" . . . you might want to read it, as the central character feels exactly this way all his life (born in India, living in Canada most of the year, feeling at home in neither place).

9:27 PM  

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