Greeting my in-laws, who have been waiting stoically at the airport, as usual. We are always late, we always tell them we will call when we land, and they never listen to us. Hearing their first comments—Mark is too tan (a sin in Asian cultures), too thin, we should do this, do that. Pretending I don’t speak Mandarin. Stepping out, realizing it’s cold. Driving home, my mother-in-law bickering about my father-in-law’s driving skills. Opening the front door and smelling this unique “home” smell you can only notice when you’ve been away for a while. Giving Mark a quick shower. Moving from one room to another, not knowing where to start. Taking a shower. Pausing. Waiting for my in-laws to leave and then making an inventory of stuff they “improved”, changed, threw away or bought while we were away (yes, they have a key, yes, I lost that battle a long time ago). Plugging in the computer and the smartphone—the former starts to download two month’s worth of updates and the latter think it’s December 31 and refuses to display recent emails. Adding them both to the “I’ll deal with that shit later” list.
We each have our way of dealing with the transition from traveling to home. Feng likes to relax and ignores anything complicated or difficult. He sleeps early and rests. I am not good with transitions and I don’t want to linger in that state of uncertainty so I get busy.
While the guys are napping, I go grocery shopping. While Mark is playing with his brand new giant firetruck (his French Christmas package arrived when we were away) I clean the kitchen and organize our stuff. “Why do we have giant Costco-size boxes of cookies we don’t like?” Feng shrugs. Yep, his parents, again. I make a mental note to drop some food at the Food Bank when no one will notice.
I open the mail. Cool, cheques! I invoiced my clients before leaving and they sent payment. Oh, nice, the cute cutlery I ordered from China arrived as well.
We both tackle the laundry right away. We need to empty the backpacks to “quarantine” them in the snow. We have bags of dirty wet clothes (remember the torrential downpours in Rio?), these go into the washing machine first, then we wash the clean clothes, then the little stuff—towels, daypacks, etc. I put the clothes away with Mark’s help. It’s not like I’m going to be wearing shorts anytime soon.
“What do you want to eat?”
“Chicken and rice!”
“We have… neither. How about pasta and ham?”
I’m tired but I try to remember the routine. The second night, I don’t remember that I shouldn’t leave kitchen cabinet doors open and I bang my forehead hard into a corner.
“Yes, just… bumped my head!” I say cheerily, my hand on my forehead. Shit, I can feel the blood. I don’t want Mark to freak out and it doesn’t hurt that much so I keep on talking, looking for something to clean it up.
Mark is no fool. He looks at me, a pained look on his face.
“Ouch. I bisou you.”
The kiss is cute but I need a cotton and alcohol. There. Fuck, I look like I’ve been into a hockey fight. Oh well. It will heal.
Meanwhile, I’m cold. Like, really cold. I hate having to wear an armour to have a smoke outside—gloves, hat, jacket… I feel clumsy. I walk like a drunken penguin on snowy and icy sidewalks.
Little by little, the house feels ours again. We are still slightly out of sync, though. I will email friends and clients later, for now I just need to adjust.
And reinvent life at home.