Remember that feeling you had as a child playing Hide-N-Seek, when after hiding in a tree or under a bush you dashed for the safety of “home”? The feeling of utter security in the knowledge that you were now secure, free from all risk and vulnerability?

That’s how I felt when we went home for the holidays in December/January. We visited Portland, Santa Cruz/Santa Clara, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. The time was heaven sent.

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View from our rented bungalow in La Jolla/San Diego.
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Sunset in Santa Cruz from Twin Lakes beach.
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Ann with Scott in Portland.
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Mission Santa Barbara.

Not only was it the holidays, so a chance to see lots of family, but it was also enough time to shut down and just be. We’ve returned energized and ready for more adventures.

The best part about being home was that I realized that I’m not ready to return and live in the United States yet. Over New Year’s, we went to San Diego. My heart ached when we first approached on the freeway, and had Scott turned east at Del Mar and headed to our old house, I felt I could just walk in and continue life as we’d known it before. That hurt.

But later, when we worked up the nerve to drive past the old house, my heart was set at ease. The house looked the same as ever (though with fewer Christmas lights than we ever had!), and the neighborhood looked great. Time seemed to have stood still.

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View down our street in San Diego.

But then we spoke with friends and neighbors, and realized that time hasn’t stood still. There are new grandchildren, and children who are now in high school and junior high, and people getting engaged, and new churches being built, and … well, life has continued in our absence.

That’s okay. Our lives were turned upside down (literally), but their lives have changed as well. Time has marched on and there is no “going back to what used to be.” I knew that, and never desired it, but this was made clear by our visits up and down the coast.

Aubrey and Scott are doing well, standing on their own two feet, not needing us to hover. They’ve got it under control. My folks and Tom’s mom are in good health and are taking care of themselves or being well looked after. Overall, our families are in fine health and spirits.

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Don and Tiny waiting for lobster lunch.
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Tom and sister Connie, Mom, and brother Don.

As I walked for hours in the neighborhoods of Santa Barbara, I was amazed at how clean, orderly, and perfect everything was. No walls with barbed wire at the top in these neighborhoods. Just green grass and lush plantings. No anger scribbled on the city buildings or individual homes. Everything was Disneylike. I loved it. But, I’m not ready for that again yet.

I admit that one day I felt like Rip van Winkle, awaking after a 20-year sleep. When did fast food joints get these things? I stood in awe and stared, unsure of how to use it, but determined to figure out the “future of soda” on my own. Amazing!

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New soda machine at Carl’s Jr.

Driving, as always, prompted my potty mouth, and I discovered that I prefer to drive in Sao Paulo than in California. I love the lawlessness of Sao Paulo traffic, and yet the unexpected courtesy. California drivers are obnoxious, rude, and rotten for the most part. God forbid they let you change lanes IN FRONT OF THEM! Give me the Sao Paulo drivers, where even taxi drivers and truck drivers make room for you.

Ultimately, I’m not ready to go home yet. I look forward to the next 10 years living abroad, having new adventures, meeting new people, and learning new languages. I adore the U.S. and cherish the fact that we will return to live there one day, but I’m not ready yet. There’s too much adventure waiting for us now.