2006-02-27 - 1:43 p.m.

Returned. I am.

In an amazing twist of luck I ended up having a flawless return trip home. Yesterday at noon, Michigan time, I was certain that I was going to have a ridiculously fucked up return trip home (like my trip TO Michigan two weeks before) because the airport bar was closed. I am almost incapable of boarding a plane without a certain level of numbness. But, it turned out okay because between my mother and Amy (previously known as Talking Girl, I can no longer call her that because during this trip home and actually over the course of the last ten months she has proven herself to be just about the best kind of friend one could ever hope for and while I never really meant Talking Girl as a negative name, it doesn’t sound good and she is just plain good and therefore does not deserve a name that sounds bad.) they got me my alcohol in the form of little bottles of wine purchased from a convenience store and a little airport plastic cup. After a 26 minute flight to Detroit (seriously, the flight attendant got on right after takeoff and did the “it is now safe to use personal electronic devices” spiel and then literally two minutes later got back on and did the “we have now begun our initial descent into Detroit and personal electronic devices need to be shut off and stowed” spiel) I had just enough time to go to the bathroom, call my husband, get a relaxed glass of wine and as I walked into my gate area they started boarding. And to my utter happiness, there was NO ONE sitting next to me, behind me or in front of me. The plane was so empty that every single person was able to have a seat with no one around them. It was nice. Then I got to Amsterdam with just enough time to walk slowly, get some orange juice and that plane was boarding only five minutes after I arrived at the gate. I like that, not enough time to sit and stew with panic. I immediately knew I was going back to Spain though, just from the boarding area. Spanish people, I have found, have absolutely no sense of personal space or order. Mass chaos. Always. I am still trying to get used to and be okay about that.

So now I am back home. My cats were very bad while I was gone. They peed all over the place. Including on a guest bed. I know this is because the routine was totally fucked up, their litter boxes were being tended to differently (Eric used more litter and DIFFERENT litter (big no no) and probably didn’t wash the boxes out twice a week like I do) and mostly because they were not able to go outside during the day and sometimes (depending on Eric’s schedule) not at all. I really hope this behavior does not become habit. They were perfectly behaved last night and this morning. All of them even slept on the bed with me and did not wake up in the middle of the night meowing to go outside. Eric now thinks the cats are the devil and that makes me sad. It makes me sad because 1. He was completely stressed out the whole time I was gone and I feel bad about that and 2. Because I love my cats and I love to enjoy every moment I have with them and when someone else I love is thinking they are the devil it is hard to deal with.

I feel much better after my two weeks in Michigan. I feel rejuvenated, strong, sure, motivated. I feel a very strong need to make myself happy here in Spain. I realized by day two of being back home in my native land how much I am depriving myself by not learning this language quickly and completely. I realized that every single thing I do here in Spain is a huge, cumbersome task, even grocery shopping and going for walks, because I am constantly trying to avoid ever talking to anyone and because even reading labels takes forever. It was VERY NICE to be able to delegate some things to the auto pilot mode of life while I was in Michigan. I never get to be on auto pilot here because everything I do requires some serious thought. It was nice to simply function for two weeks. The most amazing thing I realized while I was doing my U.S. tour last week was that being away for ten months in a foreign country made me far more comfortable in my own country than I have ever been. Before things like eating alone in a restaurant or driving through Chicago alone and uncertain about direction were uncomfortable for me. But now, the whole of the U.S. is home to me. I never felt lost or uncomfortable doing anything including eating lunch by myself in the middle of Iowa or driving through Chicago in the middle of the day with no idea where I was. Because of this new feeling alone I am so glad I moved away. Everyone should move away from their country for a year. In life previous I was NOT an American, I was born, raised and living there but I hated to claim that. I was proud of my Italian lineage because somehow I could think of myself as a little less American than others, but now I realize that I am SO NOT Italian and that I am through and through and happy about it, American. The United States will always be my home and I realize now that the beauty of my being here in Europe is that in a year, ten years, twenty years when we go back to the U.S. to live, I will be taking little parts of Europe back with me…the elegance of France, the late dinner hour of the Spanish, the love of a perfect pint of beer from the English….I love that I have this opportunity to learn and add certain things to my life. That said, I will never get used to Spain and the fact that they are surely the biggest consumer of firecrackers in the world and no one seems to know how to stand in a line.

I worked five days while I was in Kalamazoo. Everyone thought I was crazy for doing so, but working again at that restaurant was also very good for me. Everyone was really happy to see me and even people who I had no idea knew me recognized me and fawned all over me. One customer made my favorite cookies for me because I missed them at Christmas when she usually brings them in. Another family almost cried when I waited on them, I don’t even know their names and barely remember them from when I worked there. They were falling over themselves happy to see me because apparently, they say, I was their favorite waitress and they always tried to sit in my section. Also, it was good to work again because it gave me more money to spend on clothes and Aussie hair care products. MMMMM…three minute miracle. (Aussie products are not the best in terms of what they do for my hair, but I have always been a sucker for the scent of Aussie products and use them solely for that purpose.)

Things I noticed by staying with various people over the course of two weeks…every place I stayed had some sort of Pantene product in their bathroom. All of the places I stayed except one (and I suspect it was somewhere) had a bottle of Curel Ultra Healing lotion . I used this lotion while I was home and was totally unimpressed by it. I blame its undeserving popularity on Oprah. I remember when she gave away a bottle of it on her show (not because I watched Oprah but because Amy had come in a told me about it the next day at work and she, Oprah, had said that it was the best lotion in the world Remind me that if I ever make a product to have Oprah endorse it. Anyway, I think it sucked and Lubriderm or Keri are far superior. I also realized that I am really suffering from the lack of a comfortable bed. I miss my old bed and my old bedding. Eric and I really need to make our bed an adult bed. We need bedding for one, real adult bedding. A comforter that is not fifty years old and ugly, pillow cases that match the sheets. We also need to do something about the mattress itself. It is totally unfriendly. There is only one good thing about our eventual return to the U.S. to live and that is the fact that I will get my bed back from storage.

Things I forgot to buy while I was home and look forward to someone shipping to me…Maybelline Illegal Lengths mascara in black. Abreva. Yankee Candles in Clean Cotton and other crisp, clean fragrances. And La Cantina red wine marinade. Certain spices used for making Indian food and Thai food. And Origins eye cream. It’s a good thing I didn’t get these things though because as it was my luggage was over weight and I had to pay $50.

Cool and wonderful things I did while I was home. Had two facials and a massage. Walked around Chicago thrift store shopping with my brother in freezing cold, heavy rain. Met my brother’s dog. Met my best friend’s baby. Remembered why my best friend is my best friend. Found out that Amy is far more awesome than I ever could have imagined. Saw my mother and my youngest brother…both completely unchanged and as hilarious as ever. Stayed a night in a hotel by myself and watched TV in bed until 2 in the morning. Drove to Iowa and back (I needed a solitary road trip more than anything else). Bought a really cool coat at J.C. Penney. Stayed one night at Eric’s parents house and was completely surprised that his uncles and aunts cared enough about me being there to come and visit me. Saw my grandparents and for once my grandfather Bill did not correct anyone when they called me his granddaughter. (technically he is not anywhere close to being my grandfather…he is married to what would technically be my STEP grandmother but because of circumstance (the fact that my biological paternal family was not known to me until I was in my twenties and because my father, who is really only a step father, raised me and will always be my dad (even though he pisses me off and is rather bad as far as fathering goes in terms of how he treats my brother and me now) my (step) grandmother has always been just as much of a grandmother to me as my biological grandmother(s) and because Bill has been married to my grandmother my entire life, he has always been as much a grandfather to me as my biological grandfather(s). But…Bill, in his later years, has become an old codger and whenever someone says, “is this your granddaughter?” he will say, “step granddaughter, kind of.” This time he said, “Yes, it is.”) Had coffee at Fourth Coast and breakfast, twice, at The Crow’s Nest.. Had my moles checked out and no longer think I am dying from skin cancer. Went to the bead shop and even though the selection was really bad for some reason, I still enjoyed the quiet peace of browsing through beads. Caught myself totally oblivious to the fact that I no longer live in Kalamazoo and getting out of the car at the pet store because the sign said, “Friskies canned cat food, 4 for $1” and I always bought as much as I could when they were having that sale. Fell asleep in the first ten minutes of four movies. (It’s been a long time since I was so exhausted that I fell asleep trying to watch a movie. It was nice to be exhausted though being exhausted was NOT a good habit. ) While getting a massage the thought crossed my mind for the first time in six years that I might like to get back into that profession. (As long as I wasn’t working in a place where men were more likely to show me their penises like they seemed to be at the gym I worked at before quitting the massage profession and being so horrified from it that I still have a hard time giving even my husband a massage. It felt good to remember that there is something else I can do when we return to the U.S. besides being a waitress.) Bought a bunch of cheap lipsticks. Restocked my yarn supply and can now continue working on my afghan. Had Indian food. Went to the bookstore and bought $150 worth of books. Saw snow. Ate Thai food for the first time in my life. (this is a very odd thing…I never had any sort of aversion to Thai food or anything like that, it’s just something that never came up and thinking about it I wonder if there are any Thai restaurants in Kalamazoo?) Drank pots and pots of my favorite coffee. Drove around Grand Rapids with Amy and realized that Grand Rapids has some really awesome houses and areas. If it wasn’t for the religious factors and repression that go on there I might consider Grand Rapids one of those places I might like to move to someday. Ate Morningstar Farms breakfast patties and even better, my mom made me homemade macaroni and cheese. Had vegan soul food in Chicago with my brother and his girlfriend. Bought four new belts that are super cool.

Things I did not do that I had really wanted to do…go for a walk along my old route in Vicksburg. Go to Target. Eat at Mi Ranchito on Westnedge. Get pizza, from anywhere. Spend more quality, unplanned time with everyone I did see and also, some people I did not see. Walk around downtown Kalamazoo more than I did. Not lose the sample nasal spray the doctor gave me to try for my sinuses. Also, it would have been nice if I had remembered to have her write out a prescription for medication for coldsores. I had four coldsores while I was in Michigan and that is just annoying. Get all my vet records from my old vet. Win the f-ing lottery.

And more and more and more.

It’s nice to be back here though. Right now is Carnival time here (Mardi Gras in Spain)and everything is quite bonkers. My original intention had been to fly back in time to experience this…but after half an hour Saturday night I had had enough. I am just not cut out for crazy celebrations and noise. I tried. So last night I drove Eric down to Sitges and dropped him off so he could at least join in the festivities. I went to bed at 1 am…he came straggling in at 6 am and then woke up to go to work. Boy is nuts.


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