July 29, 2013

Day 10: Homecoming

We did it.

The Wiants drove from Minnesota to Washington, DC and home again. We did it without catastrophe: no accidents or speeding tickets, no burglaries or natural disasters. We avoided being those people walking to the service station for a can of gas (that was me in 1997 on 13th Avenue in Fargo, wearing my Dairy Queen uniform) or the family pulled over on the shoulder of the interstate so that a toddler can go potty in a ditch (that was me in 2009 somewhere outside Kearney, Nebraska).

The last hour of the trip was the longest. The kids were playing some kind of game in the back seat that involved Felix shrieking like a pterodactyl while Evie sobbed and shouted "FELIX!" in her whiniest voice. I was obsessively checking Google Maps to see where the red lines of traffic were, despairing that I did not travel 1100 miles to spend the evening inching past the Mall of America on 494.

We had only been gone 10 days, but it seemed like everything changed, subtly, while we were gone. The flowers had grown. The cats had gotten bolder and more assertive. The house had its smell back.

Every house has a distinct odor. I remember a childhood friend returning a sweatshirt to me; I had left it after a sleepover and she recognized it because it smelled like my house.

Of course, you can't smell your own house. Not until you've been away for more than a week. Then, it seems strange and surprising, but altogether familiar, like seeing the back of your head in a photograph.

The first few moments of being home feel strange, but almost instantly, things click into place. I remember how I like to have the radio playing while I'm doing anything in the kitchen. I remember how the washer and dryer sing a cheerful little tune upon completing a load of laundry. I remember how green and lush the backyard looks in July. I remember that, while my home is far from perfect, I love living here.

Our odyssey is over. Tomorrow is a day of chores and rest and settling into our home routines before returning to work and a thousand unread emails on Wednesday.

It will feel good to sleep in my own bed, to select my clothes from my closet instead of a suitcase, to eat healthy food and get back into my exercise routine. Maybe that last one won't feel so great at first, but I'll give it a go anyway.

We had a great vacation. And, like all vacations, it concludes with a renewed appreciation of home.

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