I was ambivalent about planning our first trip home. On one hand, I really didn't want to deal with the cold of winter and all of the extra luggage we'd need, but on the other, a reunion with friends and family was long overdue and we didn't want to delay it any longer.
We put Stella in the care of friends, packed our suitcases full of treasures from India, and settled into our 30 hour transit from Pune to New York. A ten hour flight landed in London where we took a full-day, private tour given by the great folks at London Magical Tours, and an eight hour flight that night to Newark put us at home in NYC just around two in the morning on December 21st.
Our first order of business was to grab some grub. We went to the late night pizza place around the corner from home and shoveled 2 beautiful, crispy, gigantic slices into our faces while watching a drunk guy try to get his little brother (who was wasted, passed out on the table), to drink water and eat pizza while talking to his friend about the fist fight he just had over his cell phone in a donut shop downtown. Ahhhhhh, New York City.
We spent Christmas on Long Island with Marc's family and did all the things we love -- a walk on the bay beach, an early morning stop at Jack's Stir Brew, a drive to Montauk, fresh seafood from Stuart's, exchanging gifts after Mass on Christmas day, and some cat naps at the fireplace. Being there really put us in the holiday spirit.
Our next stop was sunny Florida where we stayed with my sister and her husband in Tampa. She is expecting her second baby in February so there was a lot of excitement around that, and she was sweet enough to give me a sneak peak of the little guy at her ultrasound appointment! We made cookies and went to her baby shower, spent time with my two year old nephew (who I'm pretty sure will remember me now!), and rang in 2015 quietly with a nice dinner at their place. Everyone was in bed by 1am...I guess we're really adults now?
After the new year we saw my mom and dad, who live about 45 minutes north, and did some touristing, which included a trip to Weeki Wachee state park for the mermaid show -- if you are ever in the area, you HAVE to see this place!!
After Long Island we drove to southern New Jersey and spent a few days with friends at their new home. We got Pete's Pizza from Columbus Farmers Market, went to Sunday mass at St. David the King (our old neighborhood church), did a drive-by at our old townhouse, met up with family from my side for dinner, and took a trip to stock up on goodies from Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. I also bought a few pairs of jeans, something I had been dying to do for months!
A quick flight to Philadelphia gave us just enough time (we had a 12 hour window) for dinner and drinks with friends before driving to Maryland the next day for an overnight with family. We were greeted in the morning by the first and only snow of our trip, which was beautiful but made for a slow drive. On the way down, we made a brief pit-stop in Delaware for two very important purchases: a Nikon DS5300, and a Go Pro -- hooray for soon-to-be better pictures on the blog!!
Maryland was awesome, it always is. I have this aunt who is basically a domestic goddess when it comes to entertaining, and every time we go, it is perfect. Her table is the place to be for great conversations, family stories, delicious food, and a fair amount of good-natured heckling. She even got a Smith Island Cake for dessert, my fave!
We drove back up to NYC in the morning after an awesome breakfast, and spent our last few days there. We ate a massive French lunch at Bistro Vendome, caught up with friends over dinners at Betony and Kanoyama, and watched two of our favorite people get married in a flawless wedding on Long Island.
On Monday morning before heading back to Incredible India, we played a 2 hour long logic game called "Does Your Bag Fit Your Luggage Allowance?". We had way too much baggage (pun absolutely intended) and, in the end, needed to redistribute the overweight contents at least three times, taking them to be weighed at the local laundromat each time, and eventually having to borrow a suitcase so that we could fit everything in. We were SO ready to be home!
I wish I could say that I loved all of our time in the states, but that's bullshit. Our trip was crazy and I will never repeat something like that ever again. It was 21 days of absolutely nonstop travel by plane and car that covered 6 states, 23,000 miles, and over 50 people. It included no time to rest, and no time for either of us to be alone. Although I enjoyed seeing everyone, rolling it all into one "vacation" had me walking a thin line between "fine" and "insane". Toward the end I became a seething, teetering, goblin-under-the-bridge, prone to unpredictable bouts of tears, despondent periods of dissociative silence, and irritable meltdowns. In hindsight, I was probably not so much fun to be around in the last few days...or on the way home, for that matter.
Thankfully (SO THANKFULLY), the day I woke up in my own bed in Pune, I felt brand new. I watched the sun rise over the mountains onto an ordinary morning, moved around as the pitter patter of Stella's paws on the travertine floors followed me, and the combined smell of methane from the local landfill and smoke from the previous night's bonfires prompted me to turn on our A/C unit. My WhatsApp chat groups became relevant once again, reminding me of golf lessons, ladies lunches, meet ups, and salsa classes, and I headed out to meet my neighbor for lunch.
This morning I made Eggs Benedict (the English Muffins too, 'cause we can't get those here) and as I was eating in bed under my new duvet cover, I realized that for so many months I had pined over this trip, to the point of physical illness, only to discover that I was chasing a vapor. Home isn't "there" anymore, its wherever I make it. I can visit, I can reminisce, but this trip was proof that that chapter is over and I just have to keep movin' on. I'm looking forward to having new adventures, to seeing new places, to meeting new people, to nourishing relationships with friends and family back in the states, and to enjoying another year in India, where each day is "same same, but different".
Here's to a 2015 filled with a whole lot of that :-)