I intended to write during our visit to the U.S., but somewhere on the flights between Tokyo, Mexico City, and Chicago, I lost my discipline.
Arriving home was strangely surreal.
I had thought about and looked forward to it for so many weeks. It was like entering the main piazza in Venice – I had envisioned it, but standing there was hard for my mind to compute.
I struggled, at first, to get adjusted. Yes, I was back in Grand Rapids, but my relationship to people and things and places were now different. I didn’t have my same one-bedroom apartment, I wasn’t working my job, and now, seemingly all of a sudden – although it had been 6 months – I was married, too.
In addition to all of this, I would only be home for a few weeks before departing on a nearly yearlong adventure, with our plan to live in Spain until the end of July.
Internal turmoil and self-imposed pressure to make the most of my time in the U.S. scratched at me like a rambunctious, wide-eyed kitten.
I had a burning desire to visit with all the people I care about.
And I was fortunate enough to see many of them, although not all.
After living away for 6 months, engulfing myself in the presence of family and friends was like wrapping myself in a freshly-fluffed warm-from-the-dryer blanket. I eagerly absorbed the love, comfort, and sense of home.
My soul felt as though it had curled up and downed a giant mug of chai tea.
To be forthright, though,
at many points, my heart and soul were at near bursting capacity. My sister was getting married to Ben, a man who is undoubtedly the right match for her.
It took all my diligence and made-up mental exercises not to tumble into a heaving, snotty disaster during their wedding ceremony.
To see my sister so happy – and to know that Ben and this marriage were meant for her and had been waiting for her all along – is one of the greatest joys I’ve ever witnessed.
Luckily, leading up to and after the wedding, Karen and I spent many special moments together. We laughed and skied and crafted at her Bachelorette party. We carefully picked out flowers for her bridal bouquet.
We had dinner – the four of us – and cracked jokes over a board game at the DeVries’ newly set up home.
When we were kids, Karen and I dreamed about the future – when we’d have husbands and dinner together.
That time had arrived.
Karen and Ben’s wedding day was beautiful and loads of fun, not only because of their love and well-detailed day, but because I got to visit with my family and close family friends.
I was overjoyed to converse face-to-face and laugh with the people who have known me the longest. These people understand my intricacies and love me just the same. That in itself is a beautiful gift.
And while I craved to visit with each of them longer, for those moments, I savored their monumental love and kindness.
I had been excited to see all of my family and friends. And now I knew my thoughts while in India, Japan, and Nepal had been entirely accurate – they are certainly some of the greatest people I know.
This statement, too, encompasses all of those with whom I visited, on the wedding day and otherwise, and those I didn’t have the chance to see.
I could sense love and patience from others more than before, because since we’ve been gone, I’ve become much more familiar with my shortcomings.
We’re not friends yet, me and my shortcomings, but you could say we are very close acquaintances.
When you’re separated from your usual comforts, normal ways of living, job titles, and social envelopes, you’re naturally coerced to self-reflect. A lot of times, it’s just you and the farm sheep or you and the heavy buckets of laundry in Calcutta.
You get to see yourself all raw and naked and newly invigorated with the world.
But just like a mother and her ducklings, she loves all of them along with their flaws because what she predominantly sees is their brightly-lit, radiating, more commanding positive attributes. This is how family and friends greeted me at home.
You hosted me, even if you were busy or 9 months pregnant,
cooked me incredible lunches and dinners,
met up with me on a minute’s notice,
mixed my favorite drink,
went to lunch with me, took a walk,
let me tag along on errands
or sort through your basement for my stuff,
rode bikes to get ice cream,
chit-chatted around the breakfast table, campfire, or Lake Ryerson,
played board games and card games,
offered only graciousness when I was two minutes or two hours late,
unwrapped and cleaned kayaks for a river ride,
bore with and supported my crazy (and yes, chosen) life,
let me crash your family’s day,
understood when I didn’t have cell service,
talked with me, lived with me, made me laugh,
reminisced about past adventures, and discussed future dreams.
I felt cared for and gloriously whole. The conversations and laughter and timely exchanged I-know-exactly-what-you-mean looks are marvelously etched in my memory.
I know I didn’t capture everything here that happened there, but could any of us?
Often times the quiet gestures, hugs, and statements are what resonate strongest in our hearts.
(Like peacefully hanging with Hank during a tornado warning or catching a glimpse of a fun fishing outing).
“They” say that you don’t really know the value of something or someone until you’re gone.
Although I don’t quite know who “they” are, I can attest that this battered cliche is true. The moments I had with people in the US were clearer and more exceptional than ever before.
Living away from those I love helped me deeply understand the highly coveted space they each have in my heart.
Being home was like snagging a lick of black cherry ice cream —
satisfying, rich, and refreshing,
and maybe just sweet enough to hold me over for another year.