I have three lists of all the things I need to do before we leave for the US in less than two weeks. We’ll be gone 30 days. To say that I’m a bit stressed is kind of an understatement. Our youngest daughter’s final show at UNC-Greensboro before she graduates is playing the first weekend we arrive. It’s the primary reason for this trip, but we’re also hoping to spend time with all three of our children, plus family, plus friends who are like family to us.
It feels a little strange to be going back, even if for a brief visit. We sold our house and most of our household possessions, including our car, when we left nearly 500 days ago (504 by the time we leave on Tuesday). It’ll be different because we won’t be in our own space, our own lives. The logistics of being in a place temporarily are trickier than being there indefinitely. To help us through this, my sister and her husband are generously housing us in between our visits to the kids (KY, SC, NC) and loaning us a car.
When you’re no longer in a place, it evolves without you, and you, in turn, evolve without that place, and without the people and things that were in it when you were there. There are bound to be lots of changes when we return. We follow our people and our places back in our necks of the woods (there are a few) on social media and have seen material changes happen in our absence, so we know to expect them.
To be honest, I’m nervous about this trip. Don’t get me wrong, we can’t wait to see our children. We miss them terribly. Having an ocean between us makes the time and distance seem greater, and the longing to reunite with them feels more pressing, more urgent. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with our dear friends in Tarboro and also my closest friends from my days as a teacher. I’m not even sure what I’m nervous about: I can’t really put my finger on it.
It isn’t that I worry that our friends won’t like us anymore, it’s just maybe it will make my heart hurt a little knowing that relationships have changed, that lives have moved on without us being able to witness it. Change is hard, but ultimately, it’s inevitable, even when you don’t leave a place.
Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” and he was right. The places and things and even people will have changed and we won’t be able to relive the same things we lived day to day when we lived there. But we can create new memories with our new selves and new circumstances.
My lists are hanging over my head with dread. After almost a year, this summer we became (finally) the official owners of our house. The biggest hurdle since then, has been to remodel our bathroom. It’s not finished yet. Hence, the first list. We’ve had to wait for the shower walls we ordered to arrive. You see, in Sicily, if you want any work done in August, you may as well surrender to the fact that it will not get done. Because, August. While we waited for the walls, we also needed a false ceiling installed with canister lights, and adding the finishing pieces to the doors, but that couldn’t happen either. Because, again, August.
It’s September now and we have a small window before our flight leaves for the US. We are hoping so hard that the ceiling people will come early next week (they did) so that the electrician can do his bit and the plumber can install the shower walls (and he did, too). It’s a lot of moving parts. Not to mention that our garbage services are suspended while they upgrade the water pipes in the historic center (they finished, too!).
We’ve had a summer full of travelers, friends, and family. Since the first days of May with the inaugural Sicily Connect Tour until Monday of last week, we’ve had a steady stream of visitors and it’s made time fly. The second and third lists are for our trip: what gifts we are bringing to our loved ones, and what to pack. Because now it’s time for us to be first time visitors to the US as newly minted expats.