Coming home from a vacation is just weird. There’s no other word for it.
Well… except for surreal, exciting, sad, comforting, overwhelming, and… you fill in the blanks.
I experienced all this and more as we turned onto our familiar street last night at about ten. The trip odometer had passed 2,000 miles and we had passed through 9 states… West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. But now we were back in Pennsylvania. Same sights, same houses, same potholes. We passed our neighbor sitting on his porch, we waved, we pulled up beside our house and were greeted by our cats. As always.
It was as if we had never left. But we had. Two weeks away, and our eyes were now accustomed to new sights and unfamiliar places. The old and familiar felt strange, even surreal. Yet, at the same time, comforting… weird.
We walked inside. Our housemates had cleaned the kitchen and it gleamed. There were tasks–get the girls in bed, empty the cooler, take off the bikes. Home quickly became a to-do list. Why do we own this much stuff? Our room was the aftermath of our two-weeks-previous packing tornado. The girls room was worse. A Goodwill trip, perhaps a dumpster, was in order. I suddenly became nostalgic about living out of suitcases.
It was home. It was really overwhelming.
Time had passed, things had changed, but the same skirt that I had rejected while packing was still sitting on my bed. I regarded it as a foreign object–the sights and sounds of the North Carolina mountains seemed more near. Was it only a week ago that I biked the streets of New Orleans? And that lovely cabin in Alabama… I could almost still smell the pine trees. Were all of these places and moments just photographs now?
I threw the skirt off the bed and lay down.
The next morning I had some coffee and caught up with our housemates. The chickens were doing their chicken-y things outside, the kids were playing and the sun was shining. It was good to be home.
Eventually I even slowed down enough to remember one of my favorite quotes.
“The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us” (G.K. Chesterton). Ah… here was a key.
The thing about coming home is that it is work. Good work. But it is not only the work of unpacking, laundry and trying to find the darn cellphone charger. It’s not just the return-to-work or the purging of excess stuff. Coming home is also the work of figuring out what has changed inside of you, how you have grown, what your experiences of far away places will mean in your close to home places.
And that work, I suspect, is just giving the new things enough space to grow. Even when you have a lot of unpacking to do.