When Dorothy gushed, “There’s no place like home,” she was not choosing between Caribbean and Cold. But she got home, as have we, and it feels odd as Oz. The kids were elated like Munchkins. The cat was more manic than the cowardly lion. And despite a palace-high pile of mail, a vibe of relief and accomplishment was also palpable.
- But first, Welcome to TGI Friday’s!
One last time, we had become human cargo and endured a 12-hour travel day, from Puerto Rico to Minnesnowda. At some point, we entered American airspace. A layover in Atlanta took us to TGI Friday’s, which served up many “treats”, like enormous portions (compared to the Caribbean) and fast, fervent service (ditto).
After months of limited, often insipid beer selections, the large pale ale in a frost-covered mug flowed with such dynamic flavors it almost provoked a guy to proclaim, “It’s good to be home!” Almost.
From past Sabbaticals
, I’ve learned that the comedown can happen faster than a distressed 747 landing. So my mantra for that (with apologies to Dorothy) is You can go home again
. Works real well when the Bad Thing happens—like injury and illness. Now, though, we’re all perfectly healthy and happy—and heading into cold and flu country.
Just because you “can” go home again, does that mean you must? Yes, I reckon, in this case. So one must again rely on Destiny—which did recently transport us to tropical delights—to penetrate the clouds and answer that pesky question, “What’s next?”
Closing my eyes, I listen for the little voice inside me. “Hey, how about another beer?!?” the voice enthuses. “Yesss!” I reply—only to discover that this voice actually belongs to our comical, expeditious waiter. Oh well. The answer remains the same. And like sleight of hand, he slams another mammoth, frosty pale ale in front of me.
I’ve got a feeling we’re not in the Caribbean any more. But it’s not all bad to be home.
- Déjà Vu: It’s Like 1997 All Over Again
A BreakAway Mission, for some, might be to hone up on investing—maybe clean up the portfolio and get serious about managing one’s money. Not me. Although my pecuniary acumen is enough to bring BreakAways to fruition, I blithely ignored fiscal fitness
and ALL media (except local island stuff) throughout this spree.
So it was news to me that the worldwide financial implosion had erased twelve years of hard-earned gains. That good people were losing jobs and homes like children lose toys. That our already debt-crazy government was casually bailing out mega-corporations that had once had more money than God. What a buzzkill.
Ouch. After regaining consciousness, my mind began questioning the logic of spending beaucoup bucks on a vain BreakAway. Yet, I figured, this money did not disappear in vain—unlike money in the market. If in stocks, that money would now be worth half as much. Instead, we got priceless memories that will only appreciate in value over time.
Good times and good timing, right? For sure, at least if one thinks the mug is half-full. “How about a refill?” asked the jovial waiter. “I thought you’d never ask,” I replied as the bottom fell out.
Another of my mantras
, composed on our around-the-world BreakAway in an alleged period of productive cleverness, meandered through my beery brain: It’s not a financial decision
. Boy, do I believe that—and wonder why some people think nothing of buying a new station wagon but then say they can’t afford a family vacation.
Some things—including kids, college, and the pursuit of pleasure—are just more important than money.
- Home of the Free and the Brave
Another sure sign of the homeland was the omnipresence of security. On an island, a resort probably won’t post rules by the pool, a bar may have no closing time, and lawsuits are laughable. In America—especially in airports—you can’t move without encountering uniforms, signs, rules, announcements, and other symbols of our “freedom” and “safety.”
Hundreds of military men in camo amplified that awareness, though they were likely merely passing through to or from one of our wars without end. I hadn’t worried about all that in 69 days, either. God bless.
May they come home alive and well. We did—and we certainly won our fight for some freedom.
- That’s Snow Underfoot, Not Sand
As the plane landed, our sprawling metropolis glowed in fresh snow and city lights. A blast of frigid air steamed in when the flight attendant opened the jet door.
In Minnesota, an old greeting goes, “Cold enough for ya?!” You betcha! It felt cold enough for polar bears too. But the white stuff that arrived with us created a beautiful cover for the hard, dead earth underneath. I’d prefer sand, but variety is the spice.
When the first morning had broken back home, the sun came up and pierced a crystalline sky and shone orange on the snow-white lake. I stood alone outside and watched it, prayed the high of a great Sabbatical might last a while, and realized it might take some days, weeks, or months to readjust. Guess that’s okay. All we have is time.
Unpacking will also take a while, but digging out mementoes was a top priority. Although we traveled light and brought back little, some sea treasures, carvings, masks, and paintings will grace our walls and provoke reminiscence.
Standing in the arctic air was a bitter awakening from a sweet dream:
Had we really done this thing? How could 69 days fly by so fast? And why didn’t we stay until, say, May?
I clutched the painting from Grenadian artist Francis Frances like a Bible. Then I set it in the snow, let it catch the sunrise, and took one last picture. The clash of climates and cultures made little sense, but not much does on some days.
Although I’ve been preoccupied with this Sabbatical idea for years, any guru in me was dumbstruck-numb this time. One more mantra
eventually bubbled up for consideration. Translated, this one means that, with luck and faith, another BreakAway will—will!—happen, even if it’s impossible to know when: Everything is right on schedule
Speaking of, life here at “home” is all about schedules. So it’s time to awaken the kids, feed them breakfast, and send them off to school. Darn right they’re going to school today—even though we got home way late last night. Anyway, they’re giddy about seeing their friends. And I need some time alone.
I’d rather be on a BreakAway. But now more than ever, the BreakAway—and the joy I experienced in the Caribbean—is alive in me.