I’ve been avoiding writing this post for weeks. I’m not completely sure as to why, but perhaps it’s because more reflective in nature. Consequently, it’s more emotional than giving a detailed log of our vacations or daily life in China. But, it’s March and high time to get caught up on any loose blog strings I’ve got floating around cyberspace!
In early December, we all journeyed back to Illinois for our first time since moving to China. I, at first, wrote “home” instead of “Illinois,” but felt I had to delete it. Why? Because “home” is where my husband and children are and that is no longer Illinois. I’ve tried really hard not to refer to Illinois as home in front of the girls because I don’t want to encourage the idea that where we are isn’t home.
So, after five months of living in China, we packed up our bags and flew back to the states to spend Christmas with family. I fully understand how lucky we were to spend Christmas with family since we have friends who haven’t been back for years. For some, it’s a choice. For others, it’s financially related or because they’re in the middle of adoptions and couldn’t leave the country with the newest additions to their families because their adoptions had not been finalized yet.
In my mind, and funny enough, also on a map, China seemed so far from the US that I think I mentally separated “here” and “there” and didn’t want to think about both at the same time. (Give me a pass here, please! So much change can be overwhelming. Couple that with trying to make everything “normal” for the kids and I guess you see a coping strategy coming to play!) But, if the trip reminded me of anything, that although the 14 hour flight is brutal, it really is easy to get back to “there.” We took a two-hour trip to Shanghai, hopped on a plane, and landed in Chicago. Just 2 1/2 more hours and we were in the town we moved from; another 2 1/2 hours further we were back with family! It was very reassuring to me that, in all reality, it is very easy.
I could have gotten really teary-eyed when the US immigration officer said, “Welcome home,” but I managed to hold it together. (I’m sure I wouldn’t have been the first person to “break down” at that the greeting, though!) Now, having the point-of-view that I do, I have to say that I was a little disappointed in the personnel at the airport yelling (not in anger, just to get a point across) at the “foreigners” coming into the country to “go here” and “stand there.” Saying it louder will not make visitors to our country understand what you’re saying any faster. Trust me...I know.
We made it to the car rental place and got the girls strapped into their car seats, which are optional in China (not for our family, just no seat belt laws in China). Jamie put his foot on the gas, first time in 5 months, and off we went!
Completely surreal. It’s just that it was so “normal” and we had not been living “normal” for a few months. LBean asked why we didn’t bring our driver from China with us. I tried to imagine what his reaction might have been to the sights & sounds of suburban Chicago. I did tease Jamie a bit about the “touchy” brakes, or maybe it was his foot, but there was some adjustment there. We also had a touch-and-go moment with some traffic. I told him that the girls’ grandmas would be very ticked if we made it this far with their granddaughters and then got into accident 5 hours from their houses!
There was comfort in knowing that we were in charge of our own car and we could stop at any time along the way. The first bathroom stop did make me pause and wonder why I’d been pining for US bathrooms so much (squatter toilets aside), because it really wasn’t very nice. Our first fast food stop...Arby’s! Mmmmm…so yummy!! Jamie looked through the window and saw a co-worker inside (we were still 1 1/2 hours from our town) and I had to laugh. What were the chances?
For the rest of the drive I was priming Jamie to stop at our friends’ house. We were tired and jet-lagged and it was late, but I was determined. The girls and I were spending one night in town before going back to Jamie’s parents’ house. If I didn’t see my friend that night, it was going to be a week before I’d have the chance again. I borderline-begged him to drive straight to their house and, because I have an amazing husband, he did! I cannot tell you the joy I had (and it makes me tear up as I type) knocking on my friend’s door and seeing her face! I had a suspicion she might try to meet us at our hotel when we arrived and I wanted to beat her at her own game. I was right! I’m glad I got there first! We plopped down at their house and savored our time together. (Love you S.G.!)
|In our hotel and enjoying our surprise.|
The night just got better because when we checked into the hotel there was a very large box from the “Washington Christian Hospitality Committee.” Have I mentioned that I have amazing friends? The box was filled with fresh fruit, water, homemade cinnamon rolls, fruit snacks, and my beloved Diet Caffeine-Free Pepsi. They know us very well! The fruit didn’t even see the light-of-day because we woke up very hungry in the middle of the night from our jet lag and promptly proceeded to devour the grapes!
|Trying to do the Chinese "victory" sign!|
The next morning Jamie went to work. He was working in the home-office for a week and then would join the rest of the family in our hometown for two weeks of Christmas vacation. Jamie’s mother graciously agreed to drive over and not only pick up the girls and me, but also let me have a “play-date” with two dear friends and their children before leaving town. Jet lag couldn’t even ruin this play date!
The next few days were a blur of sleepless nights and the excitement of seeing friends and family. It took about 4 days before the girls were sleeping through the night. During one night we were all up at 2 a.m. and I had planned a shopping trip for the next day to get shoes for the girls, so they had to go with me. I knew that we would never get out the door on time because they needed baths. So, since we were all up anyway, the girls took warm baths at 2 a.m. by the light of the moon, literally. I didn’t want them any more awake than they were, so I refused to turn on the lights!
We had a good week with family and went to a very special Friday night performance at the remodeled college auditorium in our hometown. I thought the musical production was really great, but poor LBean was so tired she slept through most of the Trans Siberian Orchestra-inspired show. Also that night was a silent auction to raise money for the local hospital’s new building. Items to be auctioned were theme-decorated Christmas trees. Wouldn’t you know, I found one I had to have (it was covered in earth-moving machines!). I secretly bid on it and was hoping to win and surprise Jamie with it on Christmas.
This is turning into multiple posts, please stay tuned for part 2!