Sunday, March 28, 2010

The batmobile, or love on wheels.
I live overseas in cultural exile. Anyone who has been at least 15 years abroad and who is married to a person of a different culture will know what I mean by a cultural exile, no matter how happy they are. If you haven't and you aren't, well it might be a stretch. But there is this nauseous feeling that creeps up on you after so many years (or for some rather quickly into the game) that just won't go away. It is a gnawing, knotting sort of pull that no travel meds or ginger pills will cure.
I've been away long enough to know not to generalize; not everyone catches the same bug. But I fell victim to it some time ago and believe me when I say it is no picnic. There are no cafés lovely enough to ease the homesick heart. Ex-patriots will often exhibit a sort of bilious expression, masked of course to the world by a content and adventurous exterior, and only members of the pack will pick up the scent; but it is unmistakable among our ranks.
It was exactly one year and a half ago that I felt the first Niagratic pangs. 9 years had gone by since I had been "back home", and I was gearing up for a great time. I had a dream vacation packed full of excitement planned out for this family of six. And it was a dream vacation. Full of family and old friends and, more unexpectedly, tears. Tears to rival the Falls.
I remember walking through the door of my parent's house after all those years. I stood in silence and looked around, feeling dazed. It was not the feeling I had been expecting. I remember feeling the crush of my father's hug, and looking up to see a knowing glint in his eye. He took a step over to the kitchen counter, picked up his cell phone and the car keys to his new red car and held them out to me. "Here. It's your car. Have a good time, sweetheart."
Have a good time, sweetheart? I've been back twice since, and every time he goes through the same ritual; he gives me my freedom in the batmobile and a verizon line. The car is even equipped with a credit card for gas - just in case.
Early in the mornings during my stay, I get up and try to sneak out of the house before anyone is up to take the freedomobile for a spin. I like to drive around the neighborhood and stop at my favorite bridge deep in the forest of yesterday. I like to have my coffee there, and linger in the grocery store where they play Dan Fogelburg and James Taylor. I like to buy something, and have the bagboy bag my groceries (a non-existent commodity where I live).
It is a different world; it is the real world; it is the world that once was, given back to me in car keys and a kiss.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

Oh Alli, I can picture the house, doorway, and your mom's needle crafts on the walls! I can picture that look on your dad's face as he held you close, in heart and mind. What a gift you have been given! I love that you call it the freedomobile. Sometimes I feel that way about my legs: I can run anywhere I want and see what I want, especially in my thoughts that the crisp air brings to me. I do not have the experiences of an Ex-patriot but I did move away and leave my family behind. Tom's family has given me the gift of kinship; treating me as if I have ALWAYS been an Ortner. However, homesickness can often grip me still. I miss you and hope that the next time you come home I can get a ride in the batmobile. Lovies to you my dearest friend.