Well, after almost a decade, the European adventure has come to a close. Who would have thought that High School French was actually useful, or that college German was more than an intellectual affectation?
After boxing up 9 years of intense experience, packing too much Ikea that was no longer so flat to pack, and multiple treasures from the Chertsey auction house, Elizabeth and I flew back to the States. For a couple months, we split our time between my parents in Cleveland, and our house and hopefully future home. I spent most of that time in Ohio, while Elizabeth supervised nest reno in NoVa. It snowed. Everywhere. A lot. Welcome home.
By the first week of February, enough renovation had taken place in the house, which since 2001 has been rented out to children, dogs, and people who plant invasive berry canes in the vegetable garden, that we felt confident that if we moved back in we could sleep and shower. Well, at least shower in one of the baths. And who could have thought that it would take 6 months to install granite counter tops?
It actually took the moving company two separate trips. The first one saw countless boxes of things that we’d stored in 2000 when we left for Europe. Cassette players, VHS tapes, strangely out of style curtains, incandescent light bulbs (are those still legal?), and something that has increasingly become a preoccupation, boxes of negatives, slides and prints, all screaming out “Digitize me! Digitize me! Put me on the web! Make me a slide show! Print me!”
The second truckload, containing our European furniture and effects, arrived several days later. No, it does NOT all fit into one house. It included my PC. After 9 weeks apart, I was easily able to restore to service after buying a pair of new hard drives, fully reinstalling Windows from scratch, restoring all my files, and buying replacements for half the software. If it had been more than 5 years old, I would have started from scratch.
Neatly complementing the boxes of pictures from the first load, my Coolscan is sitting beside me at this moment, chewing its way through some incredible high school memories that actually will bring joy to the class of ’78. At least the scanner is dual voltage, unlike the printer I brought back from England. New vacuum cleaner, a BestBuy TV that can pick up whatever junk Verizon is spewing at us, a new printer, a pair of used cars….well, you get the picture.
Repatriation is often more difficult than expatriation–especially for families that had such positive experiences overseas. It isn’t the same place you left, and while so much is familiar and comfortable, other things are just strangely wrong. You don’t get all the jokes on SNL, and you can’t remember which states are red and which are blue (simple trick: red=left everywhere else in the world, so the US must use the opposite system). The food is good, and there’s lots of it, but where are you supposed to walk to when you live in a ‘burb?
I think everybody understand that it takes a long time to step across a pond, but for the record, we didn’t send ANY Christmas cards last year, so don’t feel bad if you didn’t get one.