Today, I arrived home after 3 full weeks away, two of them spent soloing or free falling.  I can’t say that re-entry hasbeen smooth… actually there’s not much I can say about re-entry just yet, as I’m still trying to figure it out and not get back in the car and leave again.

What really struck me as I watched my adventure recede in my side view mirror, Hubby having taken over the driving, was that an awful lot of bugs gave their lives for me to have this adventure.  Each time one went splat on my windshield, I couldn’t help but feel a sympathetic jolt as I began to envision the reality that I was speeding towards.  I felt a bit more anxious as we got closer and closer.  How had Principessa and Middle Man managed the house and their time without us; would things be neat and ready for our arrival (we’d certainly given several hints) and wondering what it would be like just to be home again? While Little Man kept checking the navigation to see our ETA and announcing enthusiastically: “Three more hours ’til we’re finally home!”, admittedly, my emotions were taking a distinctly different route.

Spat! The body count seemed to mark our progress, as my solemn anticipation mounted. The views were beautiful, as the countryside changed from Wyoming, to Montana, to Idaho and finally to Washington again.  The magnificent Tetons, led to thermal landscapes, which gradually morphed in to sage deserts with distant mountains, and dry, rocky mesas, then to golden wheat fields in Eastern Washington and back to the tall, lush forests of my home. The views zipped past and my mind raced ahead and back… as our windshield became increasingly bloodied. No amount of windshield fluid could keep the window clear, a reflection of my thoughts.

We stopped in the very odd town of Wallace, Idaho which only made my thoughts scatter in in wider circles. It is an “historic town” and I’ve never seen a place so determined to stay in the past. Every single shop, business and building was an antique, with the interior and exteriors determined to take us all back to a gentler time when Tinker Toys were the toy of choice; I hoped the “perfect” teacher in Romper Room would “see me” in her magic mirror; Aunt Bea and Mayberry felt real; candy cigarettes were cool; Coke came in glass bottles, that fit smoothly in your hand; and electronics cost a quarter and involved a ball zipping across a platform, while you hit paddles and waited for the dings and lights.

Being in NW Idaho, there was a fair share of more dead animals and hunting, mining and other Pioneer values. Stuffed snakes, skulls and wildlife, frozen before us.  It was like stepping back in time and I clearly remembered walking all the way to Ronnie Shones’ corner store, to buy my mother her Coke and Marlboros. At home, I pretended I smoked, like her, a candy Luky Strike elegantly balanced in my hands.

I thought of the disdain I felt when Principessa brought home fake cigarettes one Halloween… While the same memory from my own childhood is filled with humor and the desire to be like the adults around me, we immediately took hers away, and told her how cigarettes kill.  Would it have been so bad if I had let her play “smoker” for a while?  At the time, the importance of letting her know how truly awful smoking is, seemed critical. Letting her know that we weren’t people who smoke, might be totally undermined by a candy facsimile.  As I looked at the candies displayed happily on the shelf of one more “old time store”, I felt silly for making such a big deal then.  All of these items from my childhood were suddenly magical items to share with Little Man, and watch his face light up at the simplicity and delight of a beating the pinball wizard. I didn’t buy him candy cigarettes, but I came close.

The kitsch and the mundane made my heart skip a beat and I smiled and reverently pointed out all the hallmarks of my childhood, on display and for sale. I challenged Little Man to a game of Pac-Man, a game I played well in college (though Centipede was MINE), and he beat me. Though it was all a nostalgic escape for me, he seemed to appreciate the experience too. (click on individual photos, to enlarge)

As we crossed the Columbia River Gorge and the terrain turned decidedly more like home: tall pines filling the landscape and things becoming lusher and greener, I fell more silent. Leaving behind the wild places that so filled me for these past two weeks, I found it hard to really embrace the homecoming ahead.

I know, I sound like a terrible mother. I know I should have been excited to finally be home again, see my kids, jump back in to the role that has defined me for twenty-one years now… but I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm. The sheer familiarity of my exit, then the parkway, and then my street seemed to dull my emotions, not lift them.

The messy kitchen (which Middle Man insists was very clean, from his point of view) and evidence of things not quite as they should be, was a final slap of cold water. Home! I tried to bite my tongue; I tried not to point out how messy the pantry had become; or the laundry strewn all over the laundry room floor; I quietly watered the plants that drooped or had died from not being watered, and I tried to not to complain.  I really did try. I know my face showed the disappointment and I could see Middle Man take it in: pissy mom is back, always wanting it a little more this, a little more that. I really wanted to be different, but re-entry can be a bitch… for everyone involved I’m sure he might tell you.

I took one look in the magnified mirror in my bathroom and I promptly called the local Aveda shop, Blessings. “Please tell me you have an opening for a lip and eye brow wax!” I whined. “When can you be here?” “Less than five minutes.” As I type, my lip is still stinging from the yank and pull of three weeks worth of middle aged mustache and a full set of eyebrows, that I didn’t know could grow there… but it made getting dinner out (there was no way I could make my way ’round the kitchen yet), feel a lot more civilized.

Yep, I’m back in civilization and I’ve got to get a grip. I’ve got to wake up tomorrow and happily put things back where I like them and be grateful that our dog Luke is well cared for, nothing is damaged and all the things that are “not right” will be fixed with time. For tonight, I feel an awful lot like one of the many bugs who ended up on my windshield: Splat!

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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