October 23, 2011 by Amanda Zahn
I am supposed to be doing my homework on this flight home. Unfortunately, I can think of nothing better to do with my four-hour confinement than talk about my life and its adventures the last two months. August seems like such a long time ago. I am pleased with the choice I made then to take September and October’s classes online, as opposed to in the classroom, so I could go home for a visit, travel some, and attend BlizzCon before getting back to school and putting my nose to the grindstone for the last four months of my degree program. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is a shame that I do not know where I will go next. There is no professional GPS to prep me for a left or right turn ahead.
My time spent in Albuquerque was enjoyable in so many ways. I got to spend a lot of time with my nieces and nephew, my sister, and my mom and Eric. Edgar popped in on one or two occasions, as did Sarah, and Maggie and Clayton made regular appearances in our gatherings. I also attended my ten-year high school reunion. Aside from the obvious enjoyment I had at spending time with my family and friends, another plus was having Matt there to experience it with me.
Matt comes from a smaller family. Add that with the fact that he is an only child and you will find that he never had the luxury of experiencing some of the things the way I did: the large family gatherings for birthdays and silly holidays, the strange traditions that can be traced to no starting point, the arguing and bickering – yeah, that too – that comes with being in close quarters with the people you love the most but would slap if the opportunity presented itself.
I considered this trip with Matt to be a form of culture shock. It is one thing to hear about the chaos a home can be with three children under the age of five, three dogs, a cranky cat, and my sister, but it is another thing entirely to live it. Weekend trips and visits could have been a great way to introduce Matt to my family in little pieces, but six weeks allowed for the introduction and made it possible to learn the habits and demeanors of the people closest to me. If he was nervous, he never showed it. If this culture shocked him, he never mentioned it. Something he did mention, however, was a newfound understanding for who I am and why I am the person I am today.
I guess that is to be expected when someone really gets to know my family.
I got to meet Matt’s parents while we were in Albuquerque as well. Originally we had all discussed a possible visit to Orlando some time over the holidays, but things were not going to work out in a way that was easy for everyone. I could not tell you who suggested that they come to visit us in Albuquerque, but I am pleased that they did. I played tour guide for them as best I could and I showed them some of the pieces of Albuquerque that makes me the most proud, but there is only so much I can show in a weekend. I hope they find the time to go back and see the things I could not find time to show them.
I also know now where Matt got that smile I love so much.
My high school reunion was not the drama-fest that reunions are rumored or portrayed to be. I will admit to being nervous as I walked through those doors for the first time in ten years, but it all melted away as soon as I saw faces I remembered. None had seemed to age at all, despite a few with a strand of gray in their hair. This is not saying that they had not changed at all, some had. They were still the same people underneath though. I was pleased to find that I was not the only one to forget to get married and have kids and all that. It seems to be a casual trend with a handful of the people I knew in school, but most of them are thriving regardless of whether or not they followed the cookie-cutter life.
September and October are amazing times to be in Albuquerque. This is especially true if there are children involved. My nieces and nephew got to experience so many things this fall: the New Mexico State Fair, the International Balloon Fiesta, McCall’s Pumpkin Patch, and then the usual stuff like the zoo and aquarium. Matt handled these outings like a champ and has become a skilled and astute child wrangler. The aquarium was an especially good trip for me because I got to play with the kids and because Matt’s parents were able to come. I loved how well Ethan, Harmony, and Haven got along with them.
We made a day trip, towards the end of my visit, to see my grandfather in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The drive was long, but it took us through some very pretty parts of New Mexico. It had actually been a long time since I had seen him, and this was the first time I had ever been to his home. There was much idle chitchat when we arrived, and then he surprised me by asking Ethan if he wanted me to take him on a ride. Confused, this prompted a lifted eyebrow from me until I saw where his finger pointed. My family and I spent the rest of the afternoon riding around my grandfather’s property on his four-wheelers, often with my niece or nephew in our laps, in front of us. I had never heard Ethan yell with as much glee as when I allowed him to push the throttle on the vehicle. At the end of the day, we ate dinner with my grandfather and my Aunt Anne and Uncle Lloyd. It was an amazing trip and I was sad it only lasted a day.
Another benefit to going home for so long was Bob. She was very sick when we departed Orlando and I worried for her the entire drive. When we got to Albuquerque, my stepdad had set up an appointment with his vet on my behalf. The vet was optimistic and, in no words at all, insulted my former vet on his skills as a doctor. Professional courtesy, or some other silly, unspoken rule, demanded that she not voice her true opinion, but I was okay with that.
Bob thrived while we were home. Well, she thrived as best she could with three dogs in the house. Having lived as an only animal for more than a year, I think the adjustment was harder on her than it was even on Matt. Aside from being high strung and lashing out frequently at passing dogs and children, her health improved and she returned to the same, charming… ahem… to the cat I remembered. She is still not as healthy as I would like her to be, but she is acting like herself and, unfortunately, acting more her age.
The departure from Albuquerque to head back to Orlando was a sad thing for me. The trip sucks, that is an easy exclamation, but it also meant that I was on the verge of getting back to the obligations of college and all that might entail. I was overjoyed to make two stops along the way: one to meet Aratar for the first time and one to reconnect with Frank, Fred, and Arlene – another family to me as I grew up. We stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel with Aratar and had a nice picnic outside because I had Bob with me. Frank invited Matt and me to breakfast at his family’s house and we caught up as best we could in an hour or so.
This is the point that I will stop for now. I love that I was able to touch — inadequately, I’ll admit – on some of the broad points I have to share from my trip home. If I had not already crossed over the thousand-word mark, I would elaborate further. I will add in a link to my mom’s blog. She started Herbalife while I was home and is now wearing pants a size smaller than before. She’s lost more than 20 pounds. I cannot describe the pride I feel, so I will not attempt to try. I will, however, motivate you to head over to her blog and peruse her progress, her trials, and her successes as she continues on this difficult journey.
Reading this blog and wondering, “Where is the rest?” I will discuss BlizzCon separately. The main reason for this is the already lengthy post I have here. The other is because the whole weekend was filled with so much win that I could hardly contain it here. Let me get home, get my homework done, and get settled into classes tomorrow and I will write again.
Luck to you, and happy reading.