It seems fitting to be writing this in the middle of the night, wide awake with jet lag. My first post was written on my bed in a hotel with my body not quite knowing what it should be doing. Now it doesn’t know where it is.
I’ve just woken up and staggered to the door of the room. I couldn’t work out where I was: where had that bookcase appeared from and how did the doorframe get there? I wasn’t in the van, nor in John’s aunty’s house, nor in a hotel room. I wasn’t snuggled/contorted in BA traveller plus (No, we didn’t get an upgrade on the way home), feeling muzzy and dehydrated and wondering what film it was I watched before I dropped off to sleep. Men in Black 3. It was rubbish.
It wasn’t until halfway down the corridor that I knew I was home. The carpet underfoot and the intermittent glow of the burglar alarm helped locate me. Home.
We’ve been home twelve hours. I have managed to stay awake all day as advised but somehow still my body is in DC time, it’s a strange phenomenon.
The sense of dislocation is similar what I felt at the beginning of our trip. Then it wasn’t about the place: I knew I was in a new place. It was not knowing where things are, not having a system, unsure of the division of labour in the van.
After so many years of living together we have division of labour at home pretty much sussed along traditional lines. In the van at first we were all over the place and it took me some time to adjust. What irritated me were the things which niggled in the early years of our marriage, when both feel that ‘my way was the way.’ These past three weeks we have had to relearn how to move round each other and, in a small space, it’s been a challenge.
Every day along with the glorious sightseeing we had to do the routine stuff: washing, cooking, shopping, eating, disposing of rubbish. Just like home, only you’re moving on all the time. So everyday it’s different, the same stuff happens but differently.
Hotels are easy. Your shower is right there with thick clean towels. Food is readily available. You’ve rented the room so you can sprinkle your stuff around willy nilly. If you’re lucky someone comes in changes or at least tidies your bed. Unnerving but nice. The whole time is one massive treat and you can revert to being children, someone else taking care of you.
Living cheek by jowl in the van for three and a half weeks was not exactly a treat. Initially those small essential routines were hard to maintain. We had to learn to respect each other again, to surrender our insistence on doing things ‘my way’ for the sake of peace between us, the common good. Negotiations were at times tense, often at 5.30pm when we needed to find our site and eat. My friend May-Belle defused tension in one key area. Navigation.
We learned to trust her implicitly. Sometimes her idea of the shortest way did seem perverse, but her mechanical calmness placed a cushion between our two tetchy egos! We even took her along with us when we left the van, along with the passports and credit card.
No, it was still camping, both fun and filth but yesterday, had you said “All’s well at home, the baby’s fine. Your parents are ok. Amy’s watering the greenhouse.” Had you offered me three more weeks I would have taken them.
We’ve have seen twelve or more the NE states of America. It has been wonderful. I’d like to see more, Ohio perhaps. More of West Virginia definitely. Much more of Vermont and Maine. I would recommend it as an eye-opener, for the spectacular scenery and intense celebration of history.
But it has also been a shake up, an insight into how we function together and the patterns we’ve established. It’s good to see that we are open to change despite our advancing years. Now we’re back can we maintain that flexibility? We’ll see.