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Mama, I'm coming home!

Written on: Tuesday August 18th, 2009

A nervous excitement filled my being as the plane descended into Milwaukee. Aside from mom's visit in Indonesia almost a year earlier, I hadn't seen any of my family in almost fourteen months!  The perpetual smile on my face could not be hidden as a childlike giddiness overtook me.  Finally the plane landed and I made my way through the terminal.  Approaching the barrier where travelers met those waiting, I saw two cute little girls, balloons in hand, flanking my mother's husband, Gene.  Controlling my stride as I walked up the slight incline of the terminal hall, I stared at them, waiting for recognition to strike.  Alas, their faces changed from indifferent, far away looks while scanning the plethora of unrecognized folks to adorable smiles when identifying the one for whom they were searching.

"Hi girls!" 

 'Uncle Shawn, your hair is soooo long!  We almost didn't recognize you"

Greetings and hugs were exchanged with the three of them, but strangely, mom was nowhere to be seen.  I quickly learned that, in typical motherly fashion, excitement bordering on impatience had led her to check the baggage claim area for the possibility that I may have taken a separate route through the airport. When at last we finally met, a relief-filled, teary-eyed hug was shared.

Having grabbed my pack off the conveyor, we piled into the car and headed for a nearby restaurant, where we planned to meet Steve and Nicole, two very good friends from Minneapolis who happened to be visiting family in Milwaukee that weekend.  They stayed in the area a little longer to greet me upon my arrival.  It felt so incredibly strange to once again be sitting at a table with close family and friends after all this time.  In some ways I felt distanced, while at the same time it seemed as if very little time had passed since this last occurred.  It was an eerie feeling that gradually gave way to comfort.

After we left the restaurant the journey continued to Plymouth, the small town where I grew up and where my mother still lived.  Items that I paid little attention to in the last two decades of returning 'home' unexpectedly caught my eye: the gently rolling farm lands that lined the highway as we traveled north, the quaint exterior of the apartments above the pubs along the main road in town and, in general, the overall spaciousness of the area.  

The next week progressed smoothly.  I caught up with friends, saw my sister and her family and visited my father.  During that time a few thoughts struck me as profound.  The first was that people really got wrapped up in their own tiny worlds.  Mundane activities that people deemd as important really were not. And if one was not careful, that attitude of not looking at the big picture could and probably would take away from something that was truly meaningful.  

This thought rolled into another internal contemplation about complacency.  As I had experienced for many years before this trip, it was dangerouly easy to get stuck in a complacent rutt:  a pattern of repetitive daily activity develops in one's life.  Soon one feels a natural comfort with this pattern, which blossoms into a societal and financial safety net.  This results in a feeling of security, often limiting one's life by rarely venturing beyond these self-imposed walls. 

As I saw old friends over the following days, examples of this phenominom were endless.  When I asked, 'What's new in your life?', the great majority of people said, 'Nothing much. What's new with you?'  Hmmm...where do I begin?

I thought perhaps this could be attributed to society, at least American society.  We have the supposed map of a good life pounded into us from a very early age: go to school, study hard, make good grades, work part time while doing so, go to University, get a job, work harder, buy a house, get married, have kids, work harder to support this lifestyle, and maybe...just maybe, by the time your 65 you'll have enough money and enough security to enjoy the remainder of your life as a senior citizen. 

Whew!  Not for me. I was grateful for the experience that I had - happy to have made the decision to leave a comfortable life, a secure job and a long term relationship to follow what was, for me, a life's dream come true.  Now, I just had to be sure that I continued those ways: following my heart and not getting sucked into what society deemed important.

Mom once again threw a party, this time for my return.  It was touching to see all those who could make it!  Family and friends endured the shite weather, and playing sheephead in the garage as the rains passed was never more enjoyable.  Alas, the crowd faded, but those of us still active congragated by the bonfire til the wees hours.

One more week was spent in the area talking with family and rekindling old relationships.  A visit to Door County was undertaken with Dave, Sara and family, bringing back childhood memories from when I used to holiday at Jellystone as a young boy with my family.  Another bonfire evening ensued with Pete, Jeff and cousin Eric.  I was even fortunate to experience the Sheboygan County Fair for the first time in fifteen years, where watching my niece, Kyra, show horses made for a proud evening.  Yes, it was good to be home, but there was still one more journey that needed to be taken to bring the trip full circle.