I hereby present, in no particular order, some of my thoughts from my first trip home to the United States. It was good to be back. Home always feels like home, you know?
I can hear English speakers…. The second day back I went to Target. As soon as I stepped into the store, I felt like I was appearing in one of those movies like “Bruce Almighty” or “What Women Want” where a character is able to hear people’s thoughts. All of a sudden, everyone’s small talk was comprehensible to me! I knew that this woman was saving for the down payment on a new car, and I knew which toy that man’s son wants for Christmas. I was also reminded that most of the conversations going on around you are fairly trivial. When I can’t understand, I tend to assume everyone is discussing world peace or something.
US currency is so flimsy compared to Euros, and I do not mean that metaphorically.
America doesn’t feel far away when I’m in Europe, but Europe feels far away when I’m in America. Why is that?
Grocery stores: wow. For better or worse (or a little of both), US grocery stores offer an amazing array of foods and products. Early Thanksgiving morning, my brother and I were sent to Acme (featured an aisle titled “New Age Drinks” that I totally meant to photograph) to procure crackers. The crackers were to accompany three varieties of Dutch cheese. At 8 AM Thanksgiving morning, Acme was in no way busy. Every aisle seemed occupied by one man in sweats staring at a list and rubbing his face, if not already on the phone with his wife.
When we found the crackers/cookies/snacks aisle, I completely empathized with those guys. There had to be fifty varieties of crackers on offer. Crackers, as odd as this might sound, are one of those small things we’re not totally pleased with over here, and so I wanted to pick some good ones. I think I did, but walked away still marveling at the sheer quantity of possibilities for one food item.
We wound up attending a wake for the father of a friend. The occasion was sad, but getting to catch up with some old friends was a highlight of our trip.
I met my newest niece (8 months)! There were a few family members we hadn’t seen since our move, but it seemed egregious that there was a whole entire person we hadn’t met previously. Consider that rectified.
Just as over here I see the word “American” branded on a lot of things, I was amused to notice the claim “European” tacked all over American products. The grass is always classier on the other side, folks.
I totally ran a half marathon! Everyone should do this: the experience is amazing and so life-confidence-boosting. At 6:15 AM on Sunday November 20, Tim and I were walking through the streets of Philly with my dad, my sister, my uncle, and 24,495 other runners headed for the start. The sun was not quite up and the air was charged with the energy of 25,000 people about to Do This Thing. My dad had brought throw-away clothes for us to wear until the actual start (mostly old oversized sweatshirts from other races). It’s normal for runners to wear a layer they don’t need and then chuck it at the start; in Philly these clothes are collected for the homeless. Well, they sang the national anthem, the gun went off, they started playing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and I was so pumped I couldn’t even stand it. I tossed the throw-away layer and was jumping up and down in my corral exchanging excited looks and whoops with random people I’d never met (because everyone I knew was in a faster corral than me)… and then we waited for twenty minutes because, after all, we were the sixth corral. And by the time we started I was FREEZING but it didn’t matter.
Training for the half marathon taught me about, well, training. Even two months ago, I had substantial doubts that I could pull this thing off. Now, I would tell you “I can’t believe I did this!”, but I can, because I had two hours, twenty-two minutes, and three seconds during which to contemplate it. From the start to about mile 3, I was just trying to settle into my pace with so many people around. Then from miles 3 through 10, I felt like I was just ticking them off (and I missed the marker for #8, so seeing the 9 was especially grand). It was fun to take in the spectators (high-fives with family around mile 5!), other runners, signs, the city, all of it. From 10 to the end I was kind of ready to be done, but I knew I could finish. (We even ran a 5-mile race in my hometown five days later! That’s 18.1 miles of race in one week!)
For the rest of the time we were home, one of my nieces (age 3) would periodically ask me: “Meg, how was your race?” and I would say: “It was great. Do you remember when I saw you?” and she would say: “Yeah, you screamed!”
That about sums it up.