Don't get me wrong...I love the USA. My country offers freedoms found nowhere else (see the Bill of Rights). We have an amazing abundance of inexpensive foods (we spend less of our total income on food than people in any other country on earth). We've got broad, smooth highways and shining skyscrapers and vast vistas of forest and field and mountains and plains. Our diversity is second to none, and when I arrive in America, I see a rainbow of hair color and skin color and eye color, and I exult in that variety that defines our melting pot.
We got to have a Prairie Home Companion visit with Fearless Husband's Lutheran Minnesota family, complete with a Norwegian holiday dinner of lutefisk, lefse, meatballs, krub, krumkake, fattigmand's bakkelse, sand bakkelse, and rommergrot. Grandma Betty can COOK! We also had several intense rounds of Spoons, Spades and Whist, as well as board games after feeding the horses and goats at Uncle Chris and Aunt Jo's farmette.
Then we got to see my family, including my spectacularly smart and beautiful nieces (no, I'm not biased! Ha!) and my wonderful brother and sister-in-law. My other brother gave me one of The World's Greatest Backrubs, and took a day off work to spend time with us. I enjoyed a contra dance with my stepfather playing banjo, some time (but nowhere near enough!) with the looms and dyes with Mom, a too-short but great lunch with Dad and my stepmother, and a truly glorious Epiphany Evensong at my home church (www.st-peters.org), complete with incense and delighted hugs from my fellow choristers.
I bought canned tomatoes with okra, and a box of kosher salt, and some lovely Christmas ornaments on sale, none of which are available here in Japan. I drove down the expansive highway on the right side at 70 mph (the top limit on the expressway here in Sasebo is about 49 mph). Mom and I both wept when we parted at the airport.
Joy is coming home. Joy is getting on an ANA flight with perfect, doll-like, bow-bedecked flight attendants bowing and smiling and offering hot towels and hot green tea. Joy is strangers begging your pardon, and cashiers and clerks bowing and smiling and behaving as if their entire existences revolve around helping you, their customer.
Joy is staggering into the house with, God knows, FAR too much luggage, and sighing with happy relief to put it all DOWN. Joy is lying in my very own bed, beside my softly snoring husband, hearing the tick of the house settling itself around us once more.
Joy is coming home again. Happy New Year.