The trip itself was full of family, friends, reunions, food, dogs & horses, etc. as expected. What I hadn't anticipated was my feelings toward and reactions to those things.
Michigan: I flew into GRR after lovely delays at PHX and ORD on Friday the 11th. The weekend was so busy with family things that it flew by. The following week was slower: horseback riding lessons, trail rides, dinner with my grandparents (a traditional Southern fish fry!), and other things that I can't recall.
One of the biggest highlights of my entire "vacation" was the couple of days I spent in Grand Rapids catching up with two of my closest, dearest friends whom I've known 10+ years and hadn't seen in two years. Wine, snacks, watching "The Lost Boys," having a beer & crack fries at Hop Cat and cackling hysterically as we shared old "war" stories (or what we could remember of them). I missed them the moment I left.
I finally got to meet my favourite cousin's husband; we went out for an amazing breakfast (if you're in Grand Rapids, MI you cannot miss eating at Marie Catrib's) and visited a couple of farmer's markets before heading to Ionia for day-before-the-field-trial socializing, running dogs, and grilling. (Venison backstrap stuffed with cheddar/venison sausage and pheasant, quail, & chukar wrapped in ham then grilled... enough said!)
Overall: Enjoyed the time I spent with my immediate and extended family with a lot less stress and anxiety has predicted. I ate WAY more food than I ever do on a daily basis and gained a few pounds (to compound the weight I've gained back from being off running due to a sprained ankle). Fie on that. I really loved being "back home" on my family's property, but I still rather loathe the tiny, podunk town itself. I've never felt at home there and still don't. It's my hometown, but not my home.
Chicago: Firstly, the train I always take back and forth between Chicago and Grand Rapids, MI is the Pere Marquette which runs on the same track, backwards and forwards. Which means I was facing backwards during the entire train trip, yet still felt and knew the moment we hit the city even without looking out of the window (I was actually reading my Kindle at the time). Returning to Chicago has always had that same feeling. Like a clenched muscle finally releasing and relaxing; this time after nearly five years.
The city has always felt like home to me, from the first day I arrived in June of 2004 when I was 21. It still does, nine and a half years later. Walking from Union Station to the Quincy brown like El station I was annoyed by meandering tourists and the ever present pigeons (undoubtedly fed by the same irritating tourists, even though it's illegal and you can be fined). I impatiently waited for my train while basking in the warmth of the heat lamps (ah, the luxury!). Got off in my old 'hood to see new chains has sprouted up (Jamba Juice, Potbelly's, H&R Block etc.) on a street formerly occupied almost entirely by local, small businesses. Thank gawd Clarke's diner (24 hour diner w/ booze), Belmont army surplus, Blue Havana, and Ragstock were still in place. I walked past another shop, whose name I cannot recall, and was cheered to see a leather jock strap clad mannquin in the window. Same ol', same ol' Lakeview (name of the neighbourhood).
I stayed with a dear, old friend whom I hadn't seen since I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles (yuck) almost four and a half years ago. Another part of Chicago that hadn't changed or if so, only for the better (good people are like good scotch as someone, somewhere once said). Although my visit had been cut short by two days, my time in Chicago was as charming and comfortable as rereading a favourite book that had been misplaced for a time. On top of that, I was finally over the inevitable jet lag. Yes!
Overall: Even after six states, well over a dozen addresses, and three cross country moves Chicago remains the only place that has ever truly felt like my home. Obviously my dogs would be miserable living in the city proper, but somewhere on the outskirts (within Metra train commute to the city) with an acre or two? Yes ma'am. Room for the dogs, room for a large garden, and transit into the city for sushi, Middle Eastern grocery stores, art galleries, museums, the food festival, street fairs, and the Lakeshore.
I missed the city from the pit of my stomach even as I stood on the sidewalk waiting for a cab to O'Hare (for the umpteenth time in my life).
Tucson: I don't know if it was from post-travel exhaustion or what, but returning to Tucson was underwhelming. The three and a half years I've lived here has been the best three and a half years of my life. I adopted my dogs, I've made lifelong friends, and have personally evolved more than I'd have thought possible only a few years ago. Still, I feel like the well has gone dry and it's time to move to greener pastures. (Yes, that is a very topical Arizona and Midwest analogy.)
The past fifteen days (the number of days I've been back in Tucson) have been largely spent puttering around the house and watching movies on Netflix. Basically, I've been a hermit with a few very notable exceptions: repairing friendships between myself and the people I love the most in this town. Otherwise, going to the grocery store and a doctor's appointment have been my sole excursions.
Lessons learned? My hometown is in Michigan. Chicago is my home. Tucson is not really my home.
(P.S. I didn't feel like proofing this post, except for a bit as I wrote, so please forgive any errors. I'll get around to fixing them eventually. Thanks!)