There really is no place like home.
The endless hands and arms of loved ones—friends and family alike—to scoop up your children, to hug and kiss and squeeze and calm and entertain them, to support you with joy and energy.
The night after night of summer barbeques, where platters of bratwurst are ever present and fireflies tease while the sun makes its slow descent beyond the horizon and children big and small fall asleep in their parents’ laps as they laugh and talk into the wee hours.
The effortless conversations with those you’ve known forever, whether forever is five years or forty.
The landscape that is mapped onto your heart: the grid of a city’s streets, the curving lakeshore of an isthmus, the roll of green hills, the deepest blue of freshest lakes, the thunderclouds that bubble above it all.
The joy of meeting the next generation of those you love, those with whom you’ve celebrated weddings and new loves and career shifts and childhoods and new homes and far-flung travels and coming-of-age.
The feeling of being in your place in the universe, that one spot where you fit ever-so-perfectly, where when you’re nestled in it, the world just makes sense.
There is just no place like home.
We spent our summer in so many of our different homes. The Chicago that is my soul’s home, the place where I belong and make sense and where I am simply at ease. The corner of Illinois that my family calls home, where my grandparents lived out their days and where my mother and sisters joined them. The Madison that is the home we made together, Fresh and I, where we crafted a community, where our children were made, where our family took root. And the shores of Lake Superior that are home to Fresh’s spirit, where he finds peace and recharges, and where we forge new family traditions among deep family history.
All of these homes, they filled our summer to bursting. There wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t pinch ourselves at our good fortune of getting to spend time in all of these beloved places with our beloved people. That we didn’t marvel at how easy it seemed for our children to make themselves at home in a world so foreign, yet so familiar. And, too, there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t miss the folks we couldn’t see, the foods we couldn’t eat, the favorite spots we couldn’t frequent. We longed for just another hour, another day, another week, to soak it all in.
It was magical, this summer. But at some point in those early days of August, we looked at each other and knew: It was time to go home
Home to our beloved Nico, who Anna pretend called at least once every day of the summer. Home to our fuzzy gatos,probably desperate for a lap to pounce on. Home to the lilts and rhythms of Spanish, which all of our ears were craving. Home to the foods that define Anna’s palate—freshest piña and guacamole, frijoles every way you can imagine, the sizzling meats of the taco cart. Home to the gaggle of toddler friends and their parents who help keep our sanity in the whirlwind of child-rearing. Home to summer every day and earth-rocking thunderstorms. Home to the routines and patterns of our day-to-day life here in Guadalajara.
At some point during our long drive out of the UP, while Fresh and I were recapping the summer’s highlights (and Anna was desperately screaming to keep us from having any kind of adult conversation that did not center around her), we both realized that our usual case of vacationitis was missing. Instead of dreading our return to the ‘real world,’ we were looking forward to it. Our life here in Mexico, it’s good. It’s easy. We have time for our children. We don’t have to dig our car out of snowbanks. We can afford little luxuries. We are always warm. We can go to the beach whenever we like. We have work/life balance. We have a palm tree. We have a community.
And so when we landed in Guadalajara and filled the taxi with way too many suitcases and navigated through late-night traffic to our little coto, where the gate is perennially broken, where the dogs are always barking, where Alex is always blasting horror movies, and where Jimena is always pressing her face against our screen, I felt relief.
Because really, there is no place like home.
While living in Mexico, I joked that speaking Spanish forced me to be far more Zen about life: Since I could only speak in the present tense, I was forced to just live in that present tense.
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