I’ll admit it; I was nervous about coming back. Even though it’s where I grew up, and where my family and most of my friends live, it had come to seem so far away.
America. It had even come to sound wistful when I said it aloud. The land of dreams. A place where, depending on whom you listened to, everything was falling apart; or a place where everything, after so long, finally was starting to come together.
I wanted to avoid at all costs the embarrassment of seeming like a foreigner, so I worked hard to remember all the things that were different about a place that had become a vacation destination for me: Air conditioning, ice cubes, big cars, big portions. I had done well, I thought; as my friend Katie whisked me toward my old skyline, I was able to help her navigate the highway/turnpike cluster from hell. We got back to her place, and I asked to use the loo. Twenty-four hours of traveling solo will do that to you.
I couldn’t find the flusher on the toilet.
I’m patting the tank. I’m pushing on tiles. I look above me for a string. Nothing. I figure I’d wash my hands, then give it another go before heading out to the living room and admitting defeat. And there, snuggled between the tank and the sink, was where the flusher had been from the time I was potty trained until I moved away: On the FREAKING SIDE OF THE TOILET. Obviously, I hadn’t thought of everything.
Luckily that has been my only mistake thus far, although there have been many things I’d forgotten about – window screens, ATMs everywhere, customer service, enormous refrigerators. And some new things, too, such as absolutely absurd pharmaceutical commercials. My favorite one is for Yaz that consists entirely of clarifications and side effects. Yet, the first two sentences she says contradict each other. Oh, and I think it’s shot in a nightclub. Classy.
I’ve also been struck by the technology here. From my mother’s computerized washer-dryer to GPS devices in cars to my first view of an iPhone app, there seems to be a nifty gadget for just about everything you want or need to do. Where I live antiquity is the rule, improvised modernity is the exception – and only the very rich have such things. The simple Mediterranean life might be the ideal for some, but would a hands-free can opener gadget be so bad?
I kid. But the things I’ve remembered, and experienced, since arriving for this visit have been nothing short of soul-satisfying: The long hugs from family and friends. Sleeping in salty ocean breezes. Sitting around the dining room table after dinner, “bazooing” as my mom’s family calls it, until it’s time to go to bed. Catching up, seeing old pictures, meeting new faces of little ones.
There’s more to come, as my visit is only half over – I just wanted to get down some thoughts before heading out to meet up with friends!