First the first time in a long time, I’m home.
This summer wasn’t the one I signed up for…and that’s okay.
I was supposed to be writing this from Australia. What part of the country I can’t say, my travel plan was to touch down at the Sydney airport and make the journey up as I went. Stay a while in the land down under with no plan, just living on a whim. Before that I was supposed to have spent two weeks hobbitting around New Zealand with my Tolkien admiring friend.
I usually I spend my summers anywhere but here. Part of it is the need to travel, which was baked into my DNA at conception. Part of it is the fact that, being single in the most pure and dictionary perfect sense of the word, I have the ability to be gone and my absence mostly not matter. There’s only my pets to consider, no other schedule to match up to make it work, no kids to save my money for, and no partner or spouse to compromise my plans. (Or to share it with, but that is a post for another time.)
As with all things 2020, my plans have been changed. I can’t remember for sure the last time I spent a summer home, but I think it was the summer of 2006. Maybe. Could be 2004.
The point is, I’ve missed a lot over the summers. Celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries, fireworks on the 4th, festivals, bar-b-ques, pool parties. You name it and I haven’t been there.
This summer I’ve not only stayed home, but I’ve largely stayed in it. Planning for the upcoming school year has taken the place of planning train routes. Cleaning my home at week’s end has replaced cleaning my hostel bunk at checkout. Playtimes with the puppers have been routine instead of squished in between unpacking and packing. Instead of looking at walls crumbled by age at an historic site I’ve made small fixes to my home. Choosing a piece of jewelry at a stumbled upon foreign market has been replace by “treat yourself flowers” purchased from my hometown. This is the summer I never planned. No far flung adventures, immediate connections with strangers, pushing limits or discovering new parts of myself through unfamiliar terrain.
You probably think that I’ve considered this summer a wash or a waste or wearisome.
I’ve also been able to spend more time with my family and this has been a gift.
With nowhere to run to, no laundry that must get done tonight, no living out of a suitcase — I have been able to have the slow summer nights I had as a kid. I can lounge with my niece and nephew at the pool or have a casual lunch with my sister at her house. I can chat with friends for hours over the online platform of their choice. Or in many cases, by phone like we used to do when we were kids. (Minus the phone cord wrapping into the other room for privacy from parents.)
Yes, it’s still not a “normal” summer. We don’t go out to eat or head to the movies. There’s no spontaneous trips to…well, anything. A family bubble has been created and hangouts occur in backyards and on decks. But it’s still the first time I can go at a moment’s notice, instead of having plans set since April with no room for change. It’s weird to say, “I’ll see you next week,” instead of the next month or two. A friend remarked to me just the other day that they knew this time they would get me since I had to be home. Or at least in the country. Most likely the state.
And it’s not simply the family and friends that I’ve rediscovered.
I’ve had Maryland corn now more times than is my norm. I’ve sat on my porch in the calm spring and watch the storms cross the sky in the humid summer. I’ve noticed the animals that are active in the July heat on the East Coast. My entire home library, with so many books left unread, has been at my fingertips allowing me daily choices in what to read. My fridge has been stocked with food and dishes are cleaned daily. The air conditioner has been running.
This probably all seems pretty silly to you, especially if you have never lived the suitcase life. Trust me, it is a different life. The suitcase life is one of constant newness and limited possessions. Like all those books I mentioned I mentioned in my home library. I forgot how nice it is to be able to change my mind about the current book I’m reading. To put it down and pick up another is not available when you had to make the choice of what to bring in June and it’s now August. The rush to make a bus, plane or train is replaced by the daily norms and it’s refreshing to see how that works. And to be able to have an idea for a school lesson and immediately get to work on it has been more successful than the phone notes I create and never revisit after traveling.
When Covid-19 made it clear to the world that international travel from the United States would be grounded, a lot of my friends and family asked about my disappointment. I’m sure they are wondering if my answer has changed now that summer is winding down, but it remains the same.
I knew I would be lucky if the only thing I lost from this pandemic (and the challenging year) was my summer trip. Many people would lose so much more. For the most part, that luck has held. I have lost work, but I’m okay. Other plans have fallen, but they can be replaced. “This summer,” I told those who asked, “is going to just be a different kind of vacation. Worst case scenario — I go to Australia another year? I’ll take that.”
And I will. Gladly.
Because sometimes it’s nice to just be home.