After 3 years of living aboard and 2.5 years since we left Florida to head East for Europe, we finally flew “home” for a visit. We certainly would have made the trip sooner if not for Covid, but our trip last year was cancelled, due to being unable to return to Europe. As restrictions were easing a bit and our need was increasing – we made the trip back to the US for a 6-week visit. Not certain how much time we would need, the 6 weeks was an arbitrary time limit we booked, but hindsight 20/20 – we barely accomplished all the items on the “to do” list before boarding the plane to return.
Most of the time spent in the US was overwhelmingly happy. We shared precious experiences with family and friends, we enjoyed worship in our favorite Church, we went to our nieces wedding, and we ate like kings! But we also had some “admin” tasks to take care of. Below are some of the details:
One of the crucial items on the “return to the US list” was to obtain documentation necessary for our citizenship request in Montenegro. This is a huge item and worthy of its own post, so I’ll leave it there except to say, one of the documents we needed was original Social Security cards – which of all the items we needed, this was the most difficult to obtain. Rarely one to complain and having spent the past 3 years wading in the bureaucratic quagmire of several other countries, I can only say that what is passing for acceptable in our Social Security system right now in the United States is deplorable. For us to merely get a copy of our cards, we had to mail, (not drop off in person) our passports, together with their forms obtained online, and pray that these documents (which we needed to return home to Europe) were received in their office and wait patiently, with no assurance that the documents were received, or that the cards would be forthcoming, or when this may happen. We went to 3 different offices, in person, praying that someone would give us any assurance or information at all, and each place only responded that we needed to call or write. They wouldn’t even let us in the front door, citing Covid. At what point are we going to stop using a virus as an excuse. I am all for requiring masks, even requiring vaccines if that is what is needed to ensure the health and wellbeing of your staff. But to refuse entry into a government building that I have paid for with my taxes for 40 years, while EVERY other business and government office in town is operating as business as usual, is an excuse. We did call – on hold for hours at a time, only to be disconnected to try it all over again. We Fed-Ex’ed the documents a couple of days after we arrived in the US and by some- not so small miracle, we got our documents back to us 3 days before we left. Phew… 6 weeks to obtain duplicate copies of our social security cards… But I digress… on to happier news…
Anyone who knows us, knows that Jack is a huge Star Wars fan. Disney bought George Lucas films and as only Disney can do, they turned a huge parcel of Disney Hollywood Studios into a Star Wars themed extravaganza. While this big change happened after we had already left the US, our friends Kay and Ron have been planning to show Jack this fantastic wonderland of imagination and fantasy. No detail has been overlooked to transport the visitor into many of the Star Wars movies, whether one is on the ride or walking through the park. Wanting this to be a memorable experience for Jack, Kay booked him into everything from the “build a light saber” and “build an R2Unit” to getting us fast passes to all our favorite rides. Certainly, together with our time with Kay and Ron, this would have been more than enough to make the trip completely unforgettable, but Kay and Ron also treated us to a VIP tour for the day whereby a cast member takes you through the parks and magically transports you to the front of the line for your favorite experiences. While lines are a part of Disney life – we were treated like royalty as we enjoyed the attractions in a completely unforgettable way. We love you Ron and Kay and we are so grateful to have had the opportunity to be together for those few days. Thank you for a positively unforgettable experience.
Maura (our niece) and Michael were married on October 6 in Cleveland, OH. We have been planning to attend this beautiful celebration and as they are the first grandchild wedding, it was not only a special family milestone, which we were so pleased to attend, it was a great chance to be with so many other family members who had traveled for the same event. Knowing that the wedding was going to be a busy time for the bride’s family, I decided to travel up for a weekend before the wedding to spend with them for her shower. It was the perfect solution- giving me some “one -on -one” time with my sister and her family – totally apart from the typical wedding frenzy.
But the bonus of these 2 trips, which I had not anticipated, was the opportunity to play “tourist” in my own hometown. While I was reared in Cleveland OH, I left just a month after my 18th birthday. When I return for visits, it is solely to see family, in fact, I rarely carve out time to even spend with childhood friends since my time there is so limited. The last thing I plan is time to explore the city of my birth, despite the wonderful changes that have taken place there in the past 30 years.
These 2 trips back afforded me the chance to do all those things, while enjoying family. We had the celebration of the wedding, I enjoyed a terrific time reconnecting with a friend whom I have known for nearly 5 decades, but hardly ever see, – and have our children meet (I love you Peggy). I spent time getting to know my sister’s friends in a very cool island town called Put-In-Bay, about 35 miles East of Toledo. Put-In-Bay, OH, boasting a year-round residency of 138 according to the 2010 census, was the locale of a famous battle in the War of 1812. High on Jacks wish list was to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, known simply as “The Rock Hall” to Clevelanders, and finally, I was looking forward to seeing the very popular exhibit, The Van Gogh Experience, which has been making the rounds on both sides of the Atlantic, both were terrific activities, which we shared with my mom and Stepfather (Thanks Mom and Craig).
Finally, the nicest memories will certainly be our re-connecting with our friends back in Stuart, FL, where we live. While I was going through photos for the blog, I was surprised at how few I have – but I remembered the moments as though they happened yesterday. While we were home, the trip back was far less about documenting an event or keeping a memory for later, but more to be in the moment and truly re-connect in a meaningful way with friends. The phone was tucked away, and I probably spent 3 minutes in total on any social media the entire 6 weeks we were in the US. I sat and talked with neighbors and friends, and it felt as though the miles and time between us evaporated. In so many ways, it was shocking how easily we slipped into old routines and navigating around our town felt as though we had never gone. We are changed – and even though we see things through a different lens, the landscape is familiar and comfortable. I have spoken of the “stickiness” of and inertia of our lives and how hard it can be to break free, to move into a new life – but this trip back reminded me of the incredible resilience – the human ability -to adapt to a new environment. It was nearly “jarring” how being back in our home returned us to our old lives so easily, and how quickly we all could imagine moving back home. Which is NOT to say that we want to move back anytime soon – just that if we needed to – we could. In fact, this trip got us considering just that…
Alec and I have talked about returning in time for Jack to enter high school with his peers (for the US it is the final 4 years before university), and this trip involved us getting more information to help us to make that decision. A friend of ours is a teacher at a wonderful high school in Palm Beach and she put us in touch with the admissions personnel who arranged a visit to the school. This visit put into stark contrast what the cost of continuing with boat school would be for Jack.
We have an ongoing balance sheet (metaphorically speaking) of benefits and costs of this life, and without a doubt, we are clearly in the black in terms of what this has cost Jack and us and what we all have gained. Going back and getting a tour of the High school he would attend, showed a growing deficit should we continue beyond high school. The reality is that Jack is incredibly bright, and not only would we be unable to intellectually and creatively challenge him sufficiently to prepare him for college, but we could never provide him with the resources of that the high school we visited. The final consideration that we are grappling with is that we would like for him to have the daily relationships with his high school buds that are unique to that life, including the dances, the football and sporting games, and the clubs that we just can’t arrange in this life. Don’t get me wrong, so far it has been fantastic and the relationships he made last year are ongoing. He continues to facetime and text with them all. But going forward in high school, this is going to be harder to maintain.
So, back on board in Montenegro, and we have so much to blog about next week or month – depending on when I get to it. We have new solar panels on the hard top, we changed to lithium ion batteries, we have really gotten down to business in school and we have fallen into a blissful routine of life here in Porto Montenegro.
Merry Christmas and Thanks for reading!!!