Gaydar. I have horrible gaydar. In my last job it took me six months to find out that my boss was gay. Even then, it was because he told me. Unless a man is particularly flamboyant, I am probably going to need to see him making out with another man before I realize he is gay. Which, hey, fine by me.
But, I do have a different kind of radar. The radar that can only be acquired by living in a foreign country for far too long. I can spot an American coming. They don’t even need to open their mouths and I still know. And no, it isn’t the obvious things like white socks pulled up to the calves or a baseball cap. It is the way you stand or what kind of tights you are wearing. It is how your hair is styled or the brand of laptop bag you have. It is your teeth, your jewelry or the way your children are dressed. And, once you open your mouth, forget it. I can hear an American on a train seats and seats away. My ears have become finely attuned to American voices. I hear them and want to say, “Hey, me too!”
When I go home my radar goes haywire. American voices everywhere. I find myself in Target thinking, Did I just hear an American voice two aisles over!? And, yes, of course I did, because, hey, I am in America. Obviously, as there are no Targets in the UK.
And as I was thinking about this radar I have developed, I started considering re-entry. It is coming up ever so quickly.
I had a friend my senior year of college that went to Central America on a study abroad program. Once it was nearing the return of the group all of their family and friends were educated by the study abroad department on how to handle their re-entry. It would be difficult, overwhelming and unpredictable for the students, we needed to be prepared.
Now, I am in no way implying that I have done something so excellent as travel through third world countries providing aid to those in need, but, I think I may actually experience some re-entry issues.
I don’t know what to expect from living where I grew up as an adult. My adulthood happened far away from my parents, we haven’t lived in the same location since I crossed that invisible line. I don’t even know when I did. Somewhere between learning to cook for myself and getting married, I suppose. Perhaps when I learned to manage a household. Rob and I are only two, but even with just two it does take coordinated effort to keep everyone fed, clothed and happy day in and day out.
In any case, I don’t know what to expect from moving home. I have to consider things like car insurance, water bills and going over to the parents for dinner on the weekends. I have to realize, hey, no need to call home if I’m going to be out partying until two. Though, Rob and I don’t really party. We’re more likely to have a romantic dinner and then a walk on the beach.
Aside from the parent relationship, I am going to have to re-realize the freedom. England, if anything, makes me feel penned in. The size of the country, the narrow roads, the limited hours of grocery stores. The lack of a car, the limit it creates on where you can go on the weekend. When Rob and I moved out of our studio it took me a long time to realize that if I didn’t want to watch football I could just go in the bedroom, aha!I feel like moving back to the states will be similar to this, but on a grander scale.
Yet, these are trivial really. Though the store hours and narrow roads do make me feel claustrophobic, it is more. There is something about England that makes me feel like I can’t stretch out and take up as much space as I want. Something that makes me feel stuck. When I went home in December, it was almost like seeing in color again. Seeing things I perceive to be normal.
Several weeks ago, Rob and I went walking through a park in Plymouth and we passed a row of houses that made me so happy I nearly cried. It was welling up and I couldn’t even put my finger on why. I just loved the houses and wanted to sit down and stare at them. They made me feel at home and comforted, there was something different about them. They had something most homes in Plymouth do not. I wanted to hug them. And I had no idea why.
And then, it hit me.
They had driveways.
I feel like this, in some ways, is a perfect picture of what moving home is going to be like. Crying because of the joy I find in finally being surrounded by what is familiar.