I miss home.
I miss the tree-lined streets and cracked sidewalks. I miss “watery” coffee with fake sugar. I miss baby carrots and cottage cheese. I miss the American flag flying on our neighbors’ lawns. I miss my driveway, its length and the way it leads up to our dead end street, the perfectly manicured front lawn beside it. I miss my dog, her enthusiasm for running and playing and living. I miss the smell of fall: nutmeg and cinnamon, pumpkin, leaves, bonfires. I miss my bed and its softness. I miss hearing crickets instead of noisy neighbors. I miss my dishwasher. I miss carpet. I miss English and how easy it is – conversation flowing and not being forced! I miss grocery stores with zillions of options and no fish markets. I miss pretzels shaped like pretzels…with lots of salt. I miss not having to take the bus, ever. I miss the ability to wear gym clothes to the store. I miss the way the sky looks at night, stars and just barely visible clouds that loom in the darkness. I miss running on my street after a rain, the way the wet pavement smells. I miss restaurants that have way too many options – salads and sandwiches and steak and desserts. I definitely miss Diet Coke and free refills. I miss real Orbit gum being available. (The stuff here sucks.)
Most of all, I miss the people. I will never be Spanish or feel Spanish. I might wear scarves and own a pair of black boots. I might eat lunch at 2 and dinner at 9. I might speak Spanish and drink café con leche with my colleagues at a nearbyl café. I might indeed be working and living in Spain. But…I am utterly, irrevocably American. I don’t think I fully understood just how much my Americanness affected me until I first stepped foot on Spanish soil in 2008. I always harbored a bit of healthy skepticism for blind patriotism, thinking it ignorant and uneducated. But while I was busy dismissing any sort of pride in one’s country, I overlooked what a love for one’s country is truly about. Hint: it’s not the politics or the food or the television shows. It’s the people.
There is no substitute for American hospitality, even if the people in the northwest aren’t quite as warm as a Southerner – outright, that is. It’s not that Spanish people are cold (especially, I’ve heard, down south), it’s just that many have grown up with a different mindset. I can’t imagine not hugging my family, not telling them everyday that I love them, not feeling a deep ache to see them after months apart. Here, it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary to never utter those three words. More than anything, I can’t see myself having children away from my mother. I’d need her. I do need her. Everyday this realization hits me like a ton of bricks.
Living abroad has a way of doing that to me, taking my most deeply held beliefs and shaking them up. It’s like before I was living in a snowglobe, all the flaked white plastic sitting tranquil at my feet. Now, some giant hand has reached down, grabbed the plastic globe, and given it a violent shake. My beliefs are raining down upon me; I see them in a whole new light. They look different from down below.