It’s now been a week since we returned from our lovely three weeks in America. They went by fast, of course, but it was a good amount of time to catch up on friends and family and remember why we love those folks so much. Which makes it all the harder to leave them. Those first few days back we experienced the old familiar symptoms of TBT and GH. The Total Body Tiredness (TBT) was normal considering the jet lag. But you have to add the Baby Factor this time. Juliette slept quite well on the plane (in this Apollo 11-era bassinet contraption; the stewardess told us to take her out if there was too much turbulence, as babies become “missiles” and just “pop out”; there was also this netting to keep her in… ).
She slept so well in fact that she was still on Alabama time and felt as if she’d just had a fairly normal night. She even slept just shy of two hours as we waited what seemed an eternity in the train station at the airport for our direct train back. So as we were exhausted by 9 pm French time, she was just ready for an afternoon nap and wouldn’t officially sleep her “night” until 3 am. This continued for the next three days; each night we succeeded in getting her to bed two hours earlier until she reached her French schedule.
The GH, or General Heaviness, is a natural return symptom, too. The suitcases were heavier, considering all the souvenirs we bought and gifts we received. Going back we’re never as light in spirit as when we start our trip. There’s no giddiness of seeing smiling faces to greet us at the airport and we know our big vacation time is over. Then for me there’s just the heaviness of heart from knowing how much I’ll be missing everyone. Three weeks is long enough to feel very much at home again and appreciate all those little things. To feel American again. Now I’m back and holding on to the experiences as if they were precious treasures. The dollars I’ve still got in my wallet, the receipts, food wrappers or simply a Wal-Mart bag, all remind me where I was and where I’m from and that I’m not there now. The first week back or so I feel my eyes smart with tears if I think of those faces back home. I love you guys! We’ll just have to think of the next trip and hope it’s not too far away…
We expatriates will always have mixed feelings. At the Atlanta airport we saw this American lady and her baby who live in Chile. She was on the internal tram as we went to our terminal. Someone asked her if she was happy to be going back to Chile, and I heard her reply, yes and no. I can definitely relate. I’ve been trying to make a mental inventory of what’s not so bad about my life here: a spacious apartment in walking distance to a beautiful town center, generally low humidity days, some great friends who love to commiserate with me, a husband who tries to understand how hard it is for me to be living here, and of course, my little crawling monster baby. France is not some poverty-stricken flea-infested ghetto, I know. But there are so many days I’d trade cobbled streets and old abbeys for an “ordinary” trip to Publix with the fam for a few avocados. Until I find a better solution, I guess I’ll have to live with these contradictions.