Having just returned from a wonderful trip to South Africa, I am struck, as ever, by how good it feels to be home again.
Our journey through that wonderful country constituted the trip of a lifetime, a celebration of our golden anniversary. Readers of this blog have already shared in some of our adventures, although my scribblings are no substitute for being there.
Over the years, my family has always loved to go on trips. Be it winter for skiing, or summer for camping, we really enjoyed going away.
My wife and I worked in the school system, so our holidays tended to come in regularly-spaced chunks, which was especially nice when our daughters still attended elementary school. We were able to get away several times during the year, usually for short spans of four or five days. That made us more fortunate than many folks, and we appreciated that—one reason, perhaps, why we enjoyed the opportunities so much.
Due a combination of lack of interest and financial realities, I suppose, we didn’t make elaborate journeys to glamorous vacation spots. Our most expensive holidays were of the weekend-at-a-ski-lodge variety. Mostly, we just visited with family members who lived out of town, stayed with friends at their summer cottages, or set up our own digs at one of the myriad provincial campgrounds.
Vagabond vacationers—that’s what we were.
In spite of our love for going away, however, and regardless of the type of trip we’d been on, there was one element common to all our family meanderings. We loved to come home. No matter how long we’d been gone, it was a real joy to come in the door, drop our gear, and explore through the house.
This lovely memory of bygone days washed over my wife and me once more, upon our most recent return.
Each of us seemed to have one special thing we liked to do when we arrived back, a self-appointed task that served to herald our homecoming. Among the several necessary jobs—turning up the temperature in the water heater, plugging in the water-softener, or opening windows to dispel the stuffiness—our special tasks stood out in their importance to each of us, respectively, as our way of saying, I’m home!
My wife would spend fifteen or twenty minutes visiting her plants, watering them, talking to them, grooming them lovingly. My youngest daughter would head to her bedroom to check on whether everything was just as she left it (though, sometimes, given the disarray, I wasn’t sure how she could tell). My older daughter would take Cinnamon, our dog, on an inspection tour of the house, the sunroom, and the back yard, generally in that order.
For all of them, it was a renewing of acquaintance with home.
My task was to wind the five clocks. The time on each face had to be adjusted, the chimes and gongs checked to be sure they were synchronized, and the pendulums re-started. It wasn’t a difficult job, or a lengthy one, but it could be stretched into a half-hour of time alone, savouring the feeling of being back home again. And, when the next full hour rolled around, and the clocks began to sound, everything seemed normal once more.
Perhaps you share my sentiment that, when I’m not in the place I love, I love the place I’m in. My family certainly looked forward to every succeeding trip or vacation spot we planned to visit, and always seemed to enjoy ourselves wherever we happened to be. But, when it came time to head for home, we were never unhappy with that prospect, either.
Our daughters have been gone for several years, of course, off raising families of their own. But they’ve continued the tradition of holidays together as often as possible.
For my wife and me, however, holidays are different now—more sedate, more pampered, and to more exotic destinations than in our earlier years—places like South Africa. Although we miss the girls, we still love to get away.
Way back when, we had a nice little routine we’d go through as each journey neared its end. One of us would start by remarking on the terrific time we’d all had, how much fun it was to be on holiday. Someone else would comment on the wonderful weather, or the exciting activities we had shared. Another might mention some of the memorable highlights of the trip now ending.
“Yeah, it was a great holiday,” somebody would eventually conclude, “but it sure is nice to be coming home.”
Later, perhaps at the supper table, or maybe when the girls were getting off to bed, one of us would look up and re-affirm it.
“Y’know, it’s good to be home!”
So, most recently, when all the plants were tended to, and all the clocks were wound, my wife and I settled in with a glass of wine. No words were spoken, yet we understood how each other was feeling. And by the time the clocks chimed ten, we were both fast asleep, exhilarated and exhausted by our wonderful adventures.
And most of all, happy to be home.