I've been back in Sweden now for a little over a week but the jet lag and adjustment that comes with the transition back left me little energy to write. I feel the need to bring some closure to our wonderful time in the US. The final week ended up looking quite differently than we had expected as we had decided to re-route Doug so that he could accompany his parents on their driving journey back to Minnesota while I went ahead with our journey as planned. At 4.00 a.m. on March 10 Doug drove me to the Pensacola airport so that I could catch my 6.00 a.m. flight back to Chicago via Charlotte. It was quite strange saying good-bye after spending so much time together but we were also so thankful that Doug could change his plans in order to spend some quality time with his family before making the long journey back to Sweden. The plane was almost empty so I basically got on and dozed. I was scheduled for a long layover in Charlotte, North Carolina which is such a nice airport complete with rocking chairs and free WiFi so I wasn't too upset by it all, but when I saw that a flight to Chicago was leaving quite soon and would get me back to the city 2 hours earlier than planned I jumped at getting on board. I'll have to enjoy the pleasures of the Charlotte airport another day!
It was so nice to get back to Chicago early as I had some errands that I needed to attend to and it allowed me the chance to take a nap before leaving to meet some friends later that day. I was deeply blessed by the kind generosity of my friend Paul who gave me a key to his house so I could relax and also a key to his car so I could more easily get around. I found my way to a Trader Joe's in Chicago which is my favorite grocery store of all time. I have this bizarre fantasy of working there in retirement so when I walked in the store and saw a Now Hiring sign, I actually paused to consider the possibilities. Seeing that I was leaving for Sweden less than 24 hours from that moment, I realized that it was likely not quite the right timing! I picked up my flowers and wine and off I went. Still, the knowledge that a Trader Joe's exists quite close to one of my favorite areas of Chicago along with my personal flagship store in Palm Springs bring silly, meaningless joy to my heart.
That evening I enjoyed a wonderful coffee break with a friend who I have known for many years. We worked together on a church staff when I did my internship and through the years have managed to keep up with one another in spite of distances. She is a person with whom I feel very much myself and it was great to sit and chat in a cute little American eatery. From there I joined 3 families from our former church, with whom we have also managed to keep close ties and it was wonderful to laugh together and care for one another as we shared the ups and downs of life's journey together. Their kids have grown up while we've been away and it's fun to see that all have become reasonably responsible members of society!
My final morning in Chicago ended up being more hectic than I had hoped because I was, as usual, being a time optimist and trying to cram more activities than I really had time for into my time frame. Luggage is always a hassle when we return and I wonder why I always end up with 100 pounds of stuff to take back. The moment I am finally checked in and through security is when I finally start to calm down a little.
The final leg was very smooth and I realized that after 10 flights in 8 weeks, I had not endured one snag. No delays, no cancellations, nothing. What a blessing that was. On board, I was surrounded by a group of students from Western Illinois University which is in Macomb, Illinois. I know this fact because that is where I was born when my father was at WIU and I think the students were stunned and delighted to know that I knew their school that kind of sits in the middle of no where. They were on their way to Russia for a study trip and it is likely that for most of them the biggest trip they've ever taken was to Chicago. It was fun watching them settle in for the long haul. As for me, I was happy for the empty seat next to me and got ready to try and get some sleep.
And then before I knew it, I was landing in Stockholm and my friend Madeleine was there to pick me up and we walked in the door of my house and soon thereafter the woman who cares for Tanner walked in with him and I was home again.
Our house looked great, the dog was a wonderful welcoming committee, and it felt good to be back in my space again. I missed Doug as he was still on the road somewhere between Florida and Minnesota and I wouldn't be able to talk to him until much later that day, and that was only if I managed to stay awake late enough to catch him. So I unpacked, took a nap, went for a walk with Tanner through the snowy and icy streets of Stockholm, and ended the day by going to Book Club which was also a great way to re-enter my world here.
As it turned out, I was awake long enough to catch Doug just as they had pulled into his parent's house from their 3 day driving journey. It was great to sleep with his voice ringing in my ears and I was glad to know that he was safely back in Minnesota.
The 8 week journey was over and I was back home, thinking about work, and adjusting to a new time zone again. But I brought back with me the treasures of time well spent enjoying people I don't get to see much of, a renewed sense of love and understanding in my marriage, a joyful anticipation of joining our church family again, and a real sense that for now Stockholm is my home. The sabbatical is over but I believe the sabbath, the rest and the renewal is something that I will seek to continue to incorporate into my life on a more regular basis. Thanks for being part of this journey.