I have never been as homesick as I was at the end of this trip. Coming home felt so good – better than biking to mile-marker zero on day 53. But it was with a mixture of excitement and dread that we walked into our house after a 2 month absence.
When we left back in May, I was worried about the house, the cats, and the mail. Truth is I wasn’t all that worried about the kids, because, unlike houses and cats and utility bills, kids call you when they are in trouble. And during the trip, I managed to put the worries out of my mind. But as we got closer to home, the worries all came back, en masse, and hit me hard.
So when Nancy dropped us off in the driveway, I immediately started looking for signs of trouble. The first thing I noticed was the weed situation. I hadn’t told the kids to worry about the gardens, so, of course, they didn’t. Before I even walked into the garage I started pulling big weeds – like the ones that had made it to 6 ft. in my absence. Nancy thought I was crazy. She was right.
When we finally walked into the house, we were immediately blasted by the smell of cat pee. It seems the cats were somewhat stressed by our absence, and when cats are stressed, they pee. Not a feature of the species. Katie had been complaining about the problem for a while, so we were expecting an issue, but not that bad.
So, after only a few minutes in the house, Dana and I both attacked projects. I did a deep clean of the litter boxes and the entry hall. Dana sorted through the pile of mail, and got some of our stuff out of the safe that we’d purchased for this trip. And we started to bicker, although I have no idea why. I think we were both a little manic, just trying to put everything back the way we wanted it.
And then we started noticing little things that had gone wrong. A garden hose had come loose, causing water to pour onto the patio every day, while the bird bath dried up and the water pump almost died. The cats’ water bubbler had also died while we were gone – probably because Katie forgot to fill it for a few days – and in her attempt to replace it, she had thrown away part of it. So the moral of this story is that, when you leave your house unattended, or attended by a college student, water is not your friend.
On the plus side, the mail situation was under control. Four times during our ride, Katie called and read all of the mail to us. Of course, we told her to toss most of it – so much junk mail! Some things we told her to file, some to save, and we even managed to pay one bill from the road. But Katie handled it all very well, and the mail pile that awaited us upon arrival was small and manageable.
When Katie came home that afternoon we gave her a big hug, and then I yelled at her about the water bubbler. That’s just the kind of parent I am – a rotten one. Then the three of us went out to dinner, which I felt bad about, because: 1) I was truly sick of restaurants; and 2) during our absence, Katie often told me that she missed my cooking and couldn’t wait for me to come home and cook something – anything – for her. But I couldn’t handle cooking just then, so we went out for Vietnamese food, which is almost like home, since we eat there a lot, and we hadn’t had Vietnamese food on the ride, and Katie didn’t have to pay for her own dinner, so that made it fine with her.
On Thursday Dana went into work, because that was the thing he’d been most worried about on the trip. Meanwhile, I cleaned the house. A lot. And I was thrilled to do it. We had put away a lot of things before we left, and I ferreted them all out and returned them to their normal, cluttered state. I scrubbed the bathrooms and the floors and the kitchen. It’s not that anything was particularly dirty – Katie had kept the house pretty clean all summer – but I had to make it all mine again.
Then, Thursday afternoon, I went to my neighbor’s house for wine. We often drink wine together in the afternoons – when the kids were little we once stooped to drinking it out of Sippy cups. Then I cooked dinner – steak and potatoes and corn – on the grill. Katie was thrilled. Friday I played tennis, another opportunity to see my friends in a comfortable environment. Friday night we went to family card night, again comfortable and homey.
By Saturday we were just home. We worked in the yard, relaxed, cooked dinner. Went for a short bike ride Sunday morning, to one of our favorite local breakfast spots. Everything was returning to normal, one daily routine at a time.
However, every day we’ve been home, I find something else that just isn’t quite right. Like my cheese grater has disappeared, although no one knows what happened to it. And the horseradish disappeared, too, which is strange, as I doubt either of my kids knows what to do with horseradish. There was a toothbrush in the kitchen, although no one seems to know who it belongs to. The garden hose manifold in the front yard was mangled, although no one remembers hitting it. And then there are the random odd spills in random odd places. I am simply cleaning them as I find them, afraid that inquiring about their origins will lead to blank stares or embarrassed giggles.
As for food, we are completely out of Lipton tea, and no one thought to buy more. Same for pasta, coffee, crackers, and spaghetti sauce. It seems the only thing my kids knew how to buy was beer. I tried to empty the house of beer before I left, but it miraculously reappeared.