As all things come to an end, even this story, a day came at last when they were in sight of the country where Bilbo had been born and bred, where the shapes of the land and of the trees were as well known to him as his hands and toes.
And so it was that Thursday morning we said farewell to our life in Paris and headed to Charles de Gaulle for our flights home.
Lunch in Munich was quite German: currywurst and potato wedges. Soon enough we were on board our second (and much longer) flight—bound for home at long last.
Penelope slept for about three hours, curled up on her seat (and my lap). Having heroically offered the window seat to my daughter, I, alas, could not sleep. So I passed the twelve hour flight reading and watching movies (Aquaman: terrible but nice visuals; Dumplin’: loved it! almost as good as the book; and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: mildly amusing).
Jeremy met us inside the International Arrivals terminal at SFO, and then, there we were, in our own house. And it was truly a bit surreal to be in our living room after so many months away. Surreal, but good.
And that was all about ten days ago…
So now: we’re home. I’ve put off writing this final entry on my blog, for a few reasons. Jet lag, yes—always much harder for me when coming home. It’s taken more than a week, but I’m finally fully back on California time.
But I also wanted to wait to write this last entry because I needed some time to settle into the old rhythms of daily life—and to see what might be new.
The good news: after three months of city travel via bus and train, I still know how to drive.
We’ve unpacked, though not everything has been put away. New art needs to find its place on our shelves and walls, but clothes are laundered and suitcases are back in storage. After a week at day camp, Penelope is off to her first overnight camp, three nights with the Girl Scouts in the Santa Cruz mountains.
And I’ve started not one, but two summer creative writing courses. This past week I’ve written four poems and the opening of a short story. All very rough drafts, of course… but what a joy to be writing again.
I’ve seen friends and gone hiking, cooked in my own kitchen, and eaten at our favorite restaurants. I’ve seen the Pacific and sat reading in my own backyard. I love being home.
And we have so much of the summer ahead of us: picnics in the park, hikes in the hills, house projects, and lots more reading and writing.
But still—it’s strange to have this travel in our rearview mirror. After so many years of anticipation and saving and planning… it’s done.
By the numbers: three countries, thousands of miles, 23 places stayed, 53 books read, several new favorite foods, and 43,972 words written about this journey. Countless new experiences and memories that I hope will last. That’s part of why I wrote it all down, of course—the better to remember these months of travel and family and adventure.
Words cannot express how grateful I am to work at a school that believes in the rejuvenating power of a sabbatical—time away from the daily demands of teaching to recharge and to grow. I’ve remembered how much I love reading—and writing, and I’m thinking deeply about how I can make both a daily practice even once I return to the classroom in August. And I’ve had so much time with my family, especially Penelope. Watching her see these new landscapes, try new foods, and make friends with kids on countless playgrounds—that’s all been such a joy. I hope this trip has nurtured her love of travel—and reminded her of the pleasures of being at home. Both are such wonderful parts of life.
And one last thing: a heartfelt thank you to you, dear reader. When a colleague at school first suggested that I blog during my sabbatical, I was both excited and daunted by the idea. But once I started, I remembered how much I enjoyed the process of writing—of capturing everyday moments that were elevated to adventures by virtue of their location. It’s been such a pleasure to turn these memories into words, to capture the sense of flying down a mountain in New Zealand or marbling paper in Florence. To take our joy and preserve it in the amber of the page. To bring you along, there and back again, on this journey. Thank you for sharing our adventure.