It finally happened. I arrived back in the U.S. on Wednesday evening. Baltimore International Aiport never looked so good. After an excruciatingly long flight from Kuwait to Germany and then BWI, complete with delays and the wickedest turbulence I've ever been in, we arrived exhausted and probably a little bit smelly after traveling for close to 20 hours.
The volunteers from the USO are great and were just outside customs with smiles, handshakes, thank-yous and a little goody bag. It was humbling to have my hand shook by several people as I pushed my bags along and to feel that I was finally home.
I hopped on a plane for a 20 minute flight to Philadelphia and then hopped on another plane for an hour flight to Norfolk, where I am now. My east coast mom and dad, my cousins Jay and Sue, were waiting for me at the airport and helped me get settled in. It was so good to have family waiting for me at the airport, to get hugs and have someone else carry MY bags for a change. It was even better to finally take a shower without shoes on and use all the hot water I wanted. I didn't turn off the water to shave my legs either... Heaven.
The next morning I started the admin process for coming off active duty and returning to my real life as a civilian and a reservist once a month. I finally got to the go the dentist to check on a tooth that had been annoying me for about three months. I ended up spending the afternoon reclining in the dentist's chair getting a root canal. Not my idea of a fun way to spend my first day of freedom, but my tooth is not bugging me anymore and it was the least painful root canal I've had thus far.
I can now walk barefoot across the floor to the bathroom. I am sleeping in a comfortable bed. I can walk anywhere I want to and walk for more than two minutes before I'm at my destination. I saw one of my best friends. This is my first weekend off I've had in close to 10 months. I'm in a real home with my cousins, eating home cooked meals and sitting on a real couch. I went shopping and bought a new dress. I drank water from the tap without fear of getting some horrible waterborne parasite.
This morning after breakfast in my pjs (luxury), I sat and watched the birds and squirrels feeding in the backyard. The bird bath had ice on it and I watched a robin trying to break the ice. I watched squirrels chasing each other across the yard and up and down trees. I saw a bright orangeish-red cardinal bouncing along on the ground scooping up seeds. Heaven.
The highlight of today was raking leaves for about an hour outside this morning. It was great listening to the sound of leaves being piled up on one another, it's one of my favorite sounds. It was beautiful just being able to rake leaves.
While it's great to be home, it is a bit of an adjustment. My heart hurt last night as we drove through a shopping area and I compared it to what I left behind. We have so much and they have so little. I hope I don't start to take it for granted. I hope I remember frequently how much I am blessed with.
Life is good and the simple things in life provide the biggest pleasures. Home!