We’ve landed. Our world no longer consists of reservations and logistics, but is filled with boxes, dust, and leaking pipes. In returning home, we face so many transitions: possessing only what can be carried in a suitcase, to a houseful of belongings. Living in such close proximity as a family, to a life filled with friends. Telling the landlord about things broken, to making the long list to take care of ourselves. We’d forgotten about the maintenance aspect of stationary life. And, once again, we are purging ourselves of yet more superfluous stuff.
Our renters did not need the girl’s bedrooms, so everything was left in place. While we were wandering, the girls transitioned from the fringes of childhood squarely into adolescence. They’ve returned to piles of stuffed animals and an American Girl collection that sums up several year’s birthday and Christmas wishes. We’ve spent several days packing their childhood into boxes: some to give to charity, others for special friends, and the last to store.
Although we are excited to spend time with people outside our family of four, we felt a little separation anxiety as Marlie and I headed to Portland for a few nights without John and Hannah. The months spent in lockstep with each other wore patience thin, yet so much change can be discomforting.
Still, the culture shock I’ve been feeling is not so much from the outside, such as standing in Safeway surrounded by American consumerism. Markets and groceries varied so much from place to place, and I have to admit it is nice to know where to find the toilet paper. (We spent days searching in Hong Kong.) Neither is it the prospect of staying in one place for the foreseeable future or even figuring out what we would now like to do for a living. We love Central Oregon and can continue on this path financially for a little longer, I do still have a couple of clients and the work I’ve carried along.
The starkest and most interesting culture shock is recognizing the changes in who we are. I’ve been trying to get my mind around why I thought I needed so much stuff. Even Marlie, our borderline hoarder, has cleared nearly every toy from her room. Hannah talks about how her teen friends need to be entertained or they become bored, instead of having the ability to just “be.” Being surrounded by friends and coordinating their wants and needs as well as our own. We have all changed in ways we are just beginning to recognize. I suspect it will be a lifetime before we understand all of how we have returned home different.