January 15, 2007

You’re a Visitor to this Country

That’s what The Professor said to me as he refused to let me buy my own dinner. And we all laughed because it’s true in a very weird way. I’m an American visiting my native land where I no longer live. I was a tourist in my own home and that my friends, is a strange sensation.

But let’s back up and take things in order, shall we?

I left for Cowan Family Christmas on the 22nd of December with more than a little foreboding. London had been entirely fogged in that week that people had been at the airport for 4 days already. Thankfully, I bought the expensive ticket home which allowed me, for the bargain basement price of $400, to connect straight to Chicago without going detouring thru London. I got to the airport 3 hours early, as required and by the time I’d checked in, gotten thru security, and was standing at my gate, it was 30 minutes later, which included shopping for Hob Nobs and buying Advil for my headache that was stretching into its third day. There was absolutely no one at the airport. It was bizarre. Handy but truly odd. Touch down in Chicago, clear customs, grab heavy suitcase and head to the re-check your bag line only to hear (overhear really) that all flights to California have been cancelled see-the-Aer Lingus-desk-for-arrangements. Obviously a bit worrying. Bad weather in California? Do they ever have bad weather? Not for the 2 years I lived there. Anyway, not a problem in Dallas, full speed ahead. We landed and I learned 2 things.

1- I need to censor my enthusiasm better. I clapped and did a little ‘I’m home’ happy dance when we touched down and the gruff businessman in the seat beside me laughed and started speaking to me. Which is to say, he questioned me just a polite amount and then started complaining about how long he might have been in Chicago had he not had a friend ‘very high up’ in the airlines. Yawn…
2- Cell phones in the US are little more than personal GPS objects. We were taxing to the gate when they said we could use our phones and the plane erupted in beep-beep-beeps and ‘Hi we just landed and we’ll be at the gate pretty soon’. Amazing. We’re still on the runway and I’d say a good 60% of the plane was on the phone saying the exact same thing. And the girl across the aisle from me made 3 phone calls, all of which complained about how stupid the ground crew was that they couldn’t get the doors open faster and how much she had to pee. How’d you like to be on the receiving end of that conversation?

I seem to have won the luggage lottery again, since my bag was first off the carousel. Something about travel and Melanie improves my luck in this arena. She’s better than St. Christopher medal for luggage. Bags packed, into the truck, seatbelts on, and then Hippie asked “Did you give it to her?” He packed a little cooler with Shiner Boc for me. I have such good friends.

We drove downtown so I could see how much things have changed in the 2 years I’ve been gone (well, that’s the official line anyway. Unofficially, we took the wrong exit out of the airport but whatever…) and then we were off to the house of my former boss and her husband who kindly threw me a little welcome back party. And they changed all the names of the streets to Irish cities just to make me more comfortable. Ok, not really. But they do live in an area of Dallas where all the streets are Irish cities. Waterford, Galway, Athlone. I walked in after a big hugs at the door and stared at a room full of people, all of whom wanted to speak with me. That’s a rather daunting moment in truth. All these people I want to see and speak to and no idea where to start. Or how to pace myself. It was wonderful though. We chatted and gossiped and laughed and I hopped from seat to seat, hugging people, hearing what had changed in the last couple of years and answering questions. It was a great evening. May made me a tin of cookies for the road, Ron brought me Godiva truffles since he can’t have one without thinking of me. (they were good too, thanks!) Wayne stayed as long as he could, and since I was late getting in, I appreciate him sticking it out until I arrived. Jim opened lovely bottles of wine, including a nice ice wine from Germany. I got to meet the new men in Jill and Jennifer’s lives and see that all of my friends are doing really, really well. That’s a good way to come home.

We all left very late in the evening, waving good bye to May and Jim, who were off to Italy the following day, and promising to call everyone when I was back after Christmas. Hippie dragged my suitcase up to the room, Melanie pointed out that she left the heat on for me, and I crawled in bed thinking “It’s good to be home.”

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