Yesterday we arrived back in Dushanbe after 19 hours of flying, 17 hours in airports, and a whole lot of crying from Eleanor. At one point in the ordeal (Thursday? Friday? Saturday?) Brandon turned to me and announced that he never wanted to get on a plane again for the rest of his entire life. I didn't have the heart to remind him that we'll just have to do the whole thing over again next summer. There are good times and better times to discuss things like that.
Despite the flying (I'm trying to forget the journey to the US that started at 11:30 pm on Friday night and ended at 7 on Saturday evening - with a 9 hour time difference), we had a fun time seeing family and enjoying the delights of America. One day I went through three - three! drive-through windows and almost died from the sheer convenience.
Every time we get to go back the place where friends, family, and our native culture are I remember all over again what we've left behind. Over time, I forget that people live next to their neighbor for twenty years or more and watch each others' children grow up. They don't have to cram all of their family into three weeks' visiting - instead they get a weekend here, Thanksgiving there, and maybe a trip together in the summer. When they go to the store and can't find something, they can ask somebody where it is.
While in Utah we reconnected with friends from the ward we left when Brandon joined State. When left our little 800 square foot duplex, their oldest was sixteen and we had two babies. Now their children are all taller than me and our two babies have turned into five. They brought us home for dinner and we shared news from the last six years, catching up and telling stories, remembering antics of various children. As we left, I wondered when would see each other again and grieved, again, for all of the friends left behind.
While I worked alongside Brandon's family a few days later to clean up after his brother's wedding reception, all of the cousins held an impromptu dance party. Kathleen danced with her cousin Sam and Edwin simply spun in circles, enjoying the music and party and family. I chatted with my sister-in-law and worked next to my mother-in-law and wished that we didn't all have to scatter again so soon. I have grown to understand those who never want their children to leave them. I tell the children that at least two of them have to live close enough for me to see them as much as I want (or they can stand). When friends change every two years, family is the only constant.
As I drove through the dry farmlands that lined my route to the wedding in Manti, I thought about past requirements for setting down: an ideal climate, a beautifully built custom house, enough money to live without worry. Living overseas has changed those. Now, I fancy, I could live just about anywhere in just about anything. I daydreamed of a small house of my own, with enough room for a garden and fruit trees that I could watch grow old and eventually chop down for firewood to make room for new trees. I thought of a community - small, rural, sleepy - where I could make those friends I would share pictures of my grandchildren with.
Of course it was a dream, and perfect as all dreams are. But every time we go back, I feel the siren song of my own place and my own people, reminding me of those things that I've put off for now.
Now that we're safely home again and looking at the resumption of our routine and friends and work, I know that we can be happy wherever we are. Everywhere there is good to be done and friends to enjoy and most important, my family. Those things don't need fruit trees and painted walls and permanence to exist. They just need to be looked for and they will be found, no matter where we are. And I know I will find them, every place we live and every where we go.
So for now, I can forget America and its siren song. Until next year.