For a surreal experience, try this. Live in New Zealand for three months, then come back home for the Thanksgiving weekend. Wow. For starters, I left Dunedin on Wednesday the 27th of November at about 3pm. I arrived in San Francisco on Wednesday, the 27th of November at 10:30am. I felt like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day’.
Air New Zealand is a great airline, I’ll just say that. They have a nonstop flight from Auckland to San Francisco, which is sweet for travelers like me (who don’t want to go through Sydney to get to San Francisco). And, Air Nz really tries to pick out great wines to serve on their flights (and they succeed, by the way). Great Pinot (which, of course, I forgot to write down, but it could have been Volcanic Hills ? …don’t quote me). There were also dozens and dozens of movies from which to choose on the flight, so all told, despite a 13+ hour flight, it went by very fast.
Being back in California was both strange, and strangely familiar. I had not been away from California for more than a few weeks since the late 1980’s (boy, that makes me sound old). So I wasn’t sure what to feel when I returned to the Bay Area, and what I did feel, once I was back, was surprising to me. I felt as if I had never left. Within a few short hours of being home, and taking my boys out to lunch at Chipotle, it almost seemed as if I had not been in Dunedin for the last three months. Weird. I was worried the driving would be difficult, to switch back to driving on the right hand side of the road…but it wasn’t. I was worried it might feel strange to all be back in our house, at least at first…but it wasn’t. And I kept having to remind myself I actually had lived in Nz for the last three months.
I had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, with both my sisters, my aunt, my mom and my grandmother (see, I can’t be that old if my grandmother is still eating turkey with us…) and it was extra special since my oldest son flew out from Florida (a junior in college, Univ. of North Florida, Jacksonville). We don’t have all five of us together all that often any more, and it was a real treat.
It was also special because I didn’t have to work over the Thanksgiving holiday (normally, I do, but, Hmmmm, there wasn’t much competition for Thanksgiving off here in Dunedin…) Of course, I am working Christmas (which they do celebrate here). But it was a dream to have the whole Thanksgiving weekend off to spend with my family.
The best thing about being home? Just hanging with my family, and when I felt like giving one of them a hug, and telling them I loved them, I could. Nothing beats that.
The most difficult thing was the shocking news that one of my good friend’s young child had died in a tragic accident over the Thanksgiving weekend while they were on vacation in Mexico. There are simply no words to describe the pain of losing one of your children, and I will just say my heart was truly broken when I heard the news. And it still is.
I left California with a heavy heart. Heavy from the pain of loss, and heavy to once again say goodbye to my family. We were bouyed by the fact that it will once be about one month, and not three, until we are together again (and this time together for good). I had another great flying experience on Air Nz, and arrived in Dunedin this morning at about 9am (my Tuesday, having had no Monday at all….hey, I could get used to that!). I went from the airport to the hospital to work on a few things (and grab some coffee) and then home in the afternoon to unpack. It was (well, it still is) a beautiful Dunedin day; here’s a view from my garden.
I went for a long run along the Otago harbor, and now am getting ready to cook up some very fresh monkfish and some asparagus. And, of course, a little Nz wine. The sun won’t set tonight until well after 9pm…a very long day.
Today take time to stop and say a prayer for those who have left us and for those who are mourning that loss. Pain is pervasive in our world, compassion less so. Maybe one step at a time we can change that.
Today is a good day to remember all life is precious.
Today is a good day to look into the eyes of those you love and say just that. To my family: I love you. I am lucky to have you.