I just recently went back to the States for a few weeks for vacation. I take that back…I am not sure I would actually call it a vacation, maybe “family time”. It seems that trips “home” are somewhat of a whirlwind of visiting every person you know, and they do not typically include a lot of relaxing or down time. Don’t get me wrong, I do love going back. It’s almost like a reality check. According to my husband I tend to start losing my American accent, so going back gives me a chance to regain my mid-western whine…I mean accent.
It’s amazing how much stuff I realize I miss once I get back. Things I haven’t thought about in ages, let alone can’t live without. Like for instance, when I finally got my rental car, only after the inept counter person at the rental car place couldn’t get my credit card to work, which caused a small mental break down since I had been travelling for 16 hours with 2 small children by myself, I was excited to see that the car was equipped with Sirius/XM radio. I had totally forgotten how much I loved 90’s on 9. It could be the best radio station of all time. Not to mention the ability to listen to Fox News. I love American radio. It’s so much better than the constant rave party here in Brussels, and if rave parties aren’t your style…you can usually catch some Milli Vanilli or Captain and Tennille. I never here rock music. I am not sure they know what it even is. Next, there is the Coney Island. I don’t mean Coney Island NY…I mean the Coney Island hot dog. Beanless chili, cheese, onions, mustard, ketchup…it sounds like a serious heart attack on a plate, but it is delectable. I am not sure what true French or Belgians might think of this sloppy culinary deliciousness. It’s so messy, and utterly American…specifically Michiganian. Another small luxury is Meijer (those of you who live near these should not take them for granted). It’s like a Wal-Mart, but better. Everything in one place. I guess it’s comparable to Carrefour, but Meijer kills Carrefour by comparison. There is nothing like going in for diapers and granola bars, and coming out with an entire cart of kid’s clothes, groceries, Reebok’s, a canoe, and a lawn mower. Not that you need any of these things, but you can buy them all in one place. I think I may have made more trips there than actually needed.
Another thing that I noticed was how acute my sense of surroundings was and how I was noticing strange things. For instance, I couldn’t believe the amount of road kill. I felt like there was a dead raccoon every fifty feet! I rarely see road kill in Brussels. It seemed a bit out of control, and I was feeling bad for those raccoons! Next, there are a serious amount of liquor stores and 7-11’s. I mean I love a slurpee, and bottle of booze, but geesh!
All in all it was a good trip. I was able to prove to myself that I can withstand a trans-Atlantic flight by myself with two children. I was able to spend time with family and friends. I was able to help welcome my new niece and nephew into the world. I was able to indulge in food that I miss. I was able to watch my girls play with their cousins. I was able to shop, shop, shop…I actually got tired of shopping. I was able to have play dates with my longtime friends. I was able to take trips down memory lane with the soundtrack of my life playing. I was able to share Easter brunch with my loved ones. I was able to run a 5K with my brother and sister-in-law. I was able watch my daughter’s face turn to horror at meeting the Easter bunny. I was able to have an overnight date with my husband. I was able to have dinner and drinks with my girls. I was able to go to my oldest niece’s volleyball game. I was able to hang out with my sister-in-law and let it vent. I was able to go to a Tiger’s game. I was able to have a serendipitous dinner with a great friend. I was able to hand my mom her Mother’s Day present in person. I was able to watch TV in real time, and not via my DVR.
I was able to do so many things that I love, and so many things that I really enjoyed. And, that’s the best part about going home. That’s the best part about taking the time to go through the entire hullabaloo to go back to a place where you are comfortable…even if you aren’t in your own surroundings. You see, when you are an expat you typically miss out on all of the things that come so naturally and without notice to you. When you are an expat, you are probably going to see your new family member via Skype instead of being one of the first family members to hold that precious little baby. When you are an expat, you miss out on all the girls’ nights with old friends and hear about it via Facebook. When you are an expat, you mail presents to your mom for Mother’s Day. When you are an expat, you only hear about the outcome of your niece’s volleyball game, instead of being there to cheer her on. If you are an expat you know how it feels to miss out on these things, and how much you cherish them when you are able to take part in the little things in life.
After we landed in Brussels, we collected our luggage and got into a taxi to go home. We were instantly slung back into European life. As we got into the taxi, my husband repeated to the driver to head towards our community…instead the driver asked for an address again. We don’t like to give the address because drivers will enter it into the GPS…which will take you out of the way, and down two track roads. So, we don’t give the driver an exact address. During the 15 minute drive from the airport, the driver nearly killed us twice and refused to listen to our directions. My husband was screaming “Left…Left…LEFT!” On our way up the bumpy road to our street, he turned around and said to me…”Are you glad to be home? Isn’t it weird that we consider this home?” And my answer was “Yes.”