A few months ago, I booked my plane ticket to America. When my computer window transformed to read, “Pack your bags, you’re headed to Minneapolis, MN.” I shot up and did a little happy dance around my apt, along with shrieks of delight. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, my step dad and I decided to keep my mom in the dark about my journey back home. This is challenging enough with your run of the mill, normal parent. However, my mother does not fall into that category. She is quite…nosy, (sorry Mom), and we are very close. Which made this secret all the harder to keep. But, let me tell you, it was one of the coolest things I have ever pulled off.
When I arrived in Minneapolis, my friend picked me up from the airport. We checked into the hotel that my mom and Rodger were staying at and snuck up to the hotel bar. As I peered around the corner, I could see them having wine. I texted my mom and asked her to guess what I did today. Which was followed by this picture.
As you may have guessed, there are no Starbucks in Albania. So she knew something was up. Just nothing to do with me crossing the Atlantic Ocean without her knowledge. I followed that up with this picture, which is of my friend Sam and I. Sam knows my mom and Rodger quite well and she currently lives in Minneapolis. Clue #2.
She sat there, stumped, wondering why Sam would have flown to Europe. With that, my patience had run out. We turned the corner, walked up and yelled surprise. Her expression was literally priceless. Tears of joy rolled down both our cheeks as she questioned whether it was actually me.
The next morning, we headed to Starbucks for a dose of caffeine. My mom handed me her phone, which has a Starbucks app. Apparently this has a bar code that can be scanned and that is how you pay for your drinks. I ordered my latte and headed on down the line. As the cashier read my total, I awkwardly handed him the phone. He laughed at me and scanned the device conveniently located 2 inches from my fingertips. So fancy. What will you think of next America?!
It’s no surprise, that within a day of reaching America, I headed to a grocery store. A real grocery store. With long aisles. And signs. And shelves stocked with goodies. As soon as I booked my ticket home, I started making a list of foods I wanted to make. What can I say, I miss baking and I LOVE food!
Another thing I miss the most, is lake time. And water sports. And the pure calm and relaxation that you can feel as you sit by a glassy lake. Which is why, our next stop was the Lake cabin.
My step dad was one of the only people who knew I was coming home. Which allowed me to plan almost an entire week full of surprising various loved ones.
For the most part, after two years, not a lot changes with people. That is a different story with kids. Which is why, I was beside myself with excitment to surprise my 8 year old niece, Kennedi.
For the next two days, she became my shadow. If she wasn’t running beside me, then she was propped up on my back. Her laugh is infectious and I found myself bent over, clutching my stomach, laughing hysterically, more often that not. Between my mom, Kennedi and nephew, I cannot remember when I laughed that much within one week. We did all the things that an aunt and amazing niece should do. As we sat and cuddled on the couch, I tried to soak up every possible particle of love.
Up next, was my nephew Aiden. He is 6 years old and has been a tough person to get on Skype for more than 30 seconds. With only one foot out the door of kindergarten, that kind of attention span is expected. Just in case he wasn’t too impressed I was home, I bought some legos for insurance. Turns out I didn’t have anything to worry about. Soon, my one minion became two minions.
The luxuries of America were amazing. Air conditioning. Constant water. Warm showers. Grocery stores. Personal cars. Oreos. Marshmallows. If there was one thing I noticed first and the most throughout my trip, it’s that things flow much smoother. There is organization. And rules. Sanitation laws. Safety signs. And people follow these. Accomplishing tasks and day to day life are just easier. It was a nice change.
As vacations always do, my trip seemed to be over before I could take a full breath. As my mom and I sat and packed my suitcase, we had a flashback to a year and a half earlier. My guess at how much my suitcase weighed, turned out to be off by almost 20 pounds. Which led us to the same process as we had perfected when I first left for Albania. Unpacking, getting rid of some stuff and repacking. All the while, secretly trying to shove shirts, toiletries and goodies in every nook and crannie.
The night before I left, we went out to celebrate. Getting dressed up and having a relaxing meal with some of my favorite people was a perfect way to end my trip.
I probably could have told you this before, but my time back reinforced this fact. What I miss the most about America isn’t the grandeur. It’s not the order. Or English. Or ease of life. It’s my family. My friends. The people I love the most. They’re the ones that put tears in my eyes when I thought about leaving again. They’re the ones that make it hard to be away. Home IS where your family is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the one you are born into or the one you make for yourself. Surrounding yourself with those people can be one of the best feelings in the world.