Planning a trip, paying for the trip, preparing for the trip, leaving on the trip, being on the trip…very little beats the satisfaction of having so much fun once you’re away that all the steps leading up to it seem entirely worth the effort.
But waking up the morning after your return in your own bed can be a pretty amazing feeling too.
We were away for just four days, but with train travel, two kids, the frenzied excitement of getting the cousins together, and the pace of city sightseeing which is so different from our normal suburban existence, it can seem like a big deal anyway. And we couldn’t have enjoyed ourselves more. Everything went beautifully: the transportation, the activities, the interactions among the cousins, the chance to be with my sister and, albeit briefly between business trips, my brother-in-law. We had a fabulous time, justifying every moment of trip preparation and every bit of exertion.
Yet on Sunday morning I woke with the feeling of bliss that comes from being back home.
And that’s interesting only because “home” has had a somewhat fluid meaning for me lately. We moved into our current residence only three weeks before departing for Washington. More than once, while away, I caught myself thinking something like “When I get back, I’ll bake bread” or “On Monday I’ll have time to run several loads of laundry” and pictured myself doing that in the house we no longer live in. So in truth, I wasn’t quite sure how it would feel to come “home” to a home that isn’t entirely home yet.
But I had my answer on Sunday morning: it felt great. It felt like the solid familiar firmness of my own bed. It felt like the silence that overtakes our household when the kids are asleep. It felt like the early-morning light seeping through the skylight in our new bedroom.
Both my kids used to love a particular picture book by Richard Scarry in which a family of animals – I forget the species – goes on a long daytrip that encompasses an epic number of permutations: there’s a visit to the beach, a drive through an airport, a stop at the toy store, a blizzard, a campground exploration, even a traffic accident – and at the end of the day, they pull into their driveway and say “Back, safe, home again.” Those are the words I always think of after a trip: Back, safe, home again.
Perhaps quoting Richard Scarry seems a little mundane. There are surely more profound quotations on departures and returns by weightier authors. Tolstoy, perhaps (“All happy homecomings are the same, but each unhappy homecoming is unhappy in its own way”?).
But to me, coming home always smacks of Richard Scarry’s phrasing. And waking after a trip, with the whole day spread out in front of me and my house, unfamiliar as it still is, spread out around me, feels like the greatest gift possible on this particular morning.