We celebrated Christmas in Memphis, Tennessee over the holidays, and this being our first trip back to the US after moving to London, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I get there and realize I missed Tennessee too much to return to London? Would anyone treat us differently? Would I wish I hadn’t come back at all? Those questions were weighing on my mind a lot the week before we left, and now that we’re back I feel like I have a firmer grasp on my feelings about this, but I’ll save that to share at the end. For now, let’s move on to a lighter subject – our Christmas.
In fact, it’s a Christmas miracle we even got to Tennessee at all. Our flight from London to Atlanta was uneventful, but about ten minutes into our flight to Memphis we started experiencing some major turbulence. Now, I’ve been on my fair share of airplanes and know what regular turbulence is, so don’t even try to wave me off. This was not normal. After 45 minutes of continuous shaking and rocking I wanted to throw my arms in the air and scream, ‘Just crash already!’ so it could be over. The flight attendants had to remain seated for the flight, bottles and all sorts of trash were rolling around at our feet, and I was gripping an airsick bag so tightly my knuckles were turning white – then I look over at Lexie and she’s cool as a cucumber, completely lost in her book. At least we know which one of us would have died with dignity had the plane gone down. We survived, obviously, and found out once we landed that our pilot had flown through a major storm system. After that ordeal, I will never again express irritation at an airline when they delay my flight due to weather.
Luckily, the rest of our trip was pretty uneventful. The first thing I did after we got to my parents’ apartment was give this girl about 11,000 kisses. I had a lot to make up for, and you can tell from the look on her face that she just loves it.
Or maybe I love it, and she tolerates it. Whatever.
We were in town for eight days and got to see most of my family. We had family come in from east Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Colorado. My aunt and uncle even drove six hours to bring my grandfather to Memphis so I could see him (and them!) and then they drove back the same day. Now that is my kind of Christmas present.
I can’t even describe how good it was to see everyone’s faces on something more than a FaceTime call, especially my sister who I hadn’t seen since February and rarely get a chance to speak to since our schedules are so off. Time differences are the bane of an expat’s existence.
On Christmas day we celebrated with presents and then breakfast at my grandmother’s house. (Everything tastes better at Mawmaw’s. If you haven’t had the good fortune of enjoying her cooking, then you have my pity.) And then we spent the rest of the day on the couch watching The Sound Of Music, which really means everyone else watched the movie and I got up every fifteen minutes to do something completely unnecessary. (I have problems sitting still for any longer than twenty minutes, even if the movie is one of my favorite classics.)
We also tried to take a family picture that night that never had any chance of turning out nicely because someone (I’m not going to specify who, but for once it wasn’t me!) decided it would be funny to toot and clear the whole room out. This, unfortunately, is normal behavior for us. Our 2013 Christmas picture is one for the album, for sure.
Other than getting a haircut that was seven months overdue (I still haven’t found a trustworthy stylist in London!) and shopping for supplies to bring back with us to London, this trip wasn’t any different than the one we make to Memphis every year. It always centers around two things – food and family. We cook together, eat together, and even wash the dishes together. I’ve never known it any other way, and it was fun to see that some things never change when you move away.
We even found a little time to play tourists in our own hometown and visited Graceland, Elvis Presley’s mansion, and Sun Studio where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and many others started their careers. Memphis’ musical history makes me so proud of my hometown. (Goodness knows Memphians need something to be proud of considering the city has a recurring spot on the Top 5 Most Dangerous US Cities list every single year!)
So to answer the questions I posed at the beginning of this post – going back to Tennessee did make me miss it more, but not so much that I wasn’t ready to return back to London after eight days away. Tennessee will always hold a piece of my heart and I plan on returning one day to rejoin it, just not right now.
Did people treat us differently? Yes and no. Our situation is different now, we are different now, so I think it’s completely normal for there to be some amount of change in relationships as well. I am referring mostly to friends here – our families are forced to love us no matter what we do or where we go. My mother lost a best friend after we made our move to Singapore years ago and a part of me has been afraid the same would happen to us. Granted, many of our best friends live in Nashville and we weren’t able to visit them in person on this trip, but I was able to call and catch up with some of them and it felt like we picked right back up where we left off. Hopefully the same can be said next summer when we spend a week there with them!
And finally, of course I don’t wish I hadn’t gone back at all. It was a wonderful trip and I am so grateful to Cory’s company for making it possible for us to fly back there. It meant the world to see, embrace, and laugh with all the people I love and miss. Plus, I got to spend plenty of time with this sweet girl. And who could turn that face down? It was a lovely Christmas, and I can only hope yours was as full of love (and good food) as ours was!