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Homecoming

Vacation, all I ever wanted?

By: Trisha Caspers / Guest Columnist
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My stepson and I sat close together at a tiny round table in the sunshine at a sidewalk café. We managed to explain to the waitress that we don’t speak French, and she asked us in English what we’d like to order.
As we spoke, a young, solitary woman strode purposefully toward us. Wires dangled from her ears, and her face contorted as she shouted profanities (I’m guessing) and flung hand gestures at the person on the other end of the line.
The three of us went silent and all of our heads followed her as she passed.
Our waitress turned back to fill our water glasses with a wry smile on her lips.
“Welcome to Paris!” she exclaimed.
When I returned home and friends asked about the highlight of my trip to Europe, this is the moment that came to mind.
Of course, I loved the big wows: watching the sunset’s glow on the Eiffel Tower as hawkers waggled rose bouquets and Champagne at us, being surrounded by Monet’s water lilies in the Musee l’Orangerie, surveying London’s moody skyline from atop grassy Primrose Hill.
But it was the small moments I will cherish: The young British woman who chided her mother the way my daughter chided me (“You’re too close to the edge!”) as we hiked the same narrow trail to the summit of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh; the boy on the train who sang “Bob the Builder” in his sweet little English accent, pausing every so often to ask his dad for biscuits (aka: cookies).
One morning I asked the host of our B&B about the hot milk on the breakfast table.
“You put it in your tea,” she said in her Scottish accent, eyeballing me as if I’d arrived from Mars rather than America.
But really. Hot milk in my tea? It’s genius!
One day, my stepson, my daughter and I stood on the sidewalk and watched as a taxi driver and cyclist almost came to fisticuffs at a roundabout in Paris. The cyclist spit in his adversary’s face, and then the police arrived.
And I thought road rage only happened in the U.S.
There are some things you don’t know until you’ve visited a place, like how nearly all the women in Paris wear dresses (at least in summer) and all of Edinburgh is covered in soot (is it soot?), or that, no, you can’t actually swim in the Roman baths in Bath, nor would you want to.
I packed my swimsuit!
I wish I were kidding.
As I was flying home, I tried not to be sad. I was away for nearly three weeks, and I missed my husband and younger son. I missed my dog.
A person can’t live in a permanent state of travel, I told myself.
Can she?
But how I love to solve the mysteries. For example, the name of the café, Pret A Manger, means, “Ready to Eat” and doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus.
Then my flight landed, and I missed my train from Oakland to Sacramento. It was one of those dramatic misses, where I was sprinting for the train as it pulled away from the station. Sprint is a strong word. It was more like a galumph. I blame the luggage.
I stood alone on the platform, so frustrated that I began texting actual gibberish to my husband.
And that’s when I met Willy, a kind gentleman who told me I could pick up the next train at Jack London Square. He offered to split an Uber ride across town — he’d missed the train, too — and that’s just what we did.
Three hours later, voilà, I was home.
Missing that train felt like the universe slapping me in the face. “You want mystery and adventure?” it said. “I’ve got your mystery and adventure right here.”
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 1800s.
I’ve got beauty inside of me, don’t I?
Well, I’m going to find out.
I’m challenging myself to live in my town as if it’s a new adventure, to see it with fresh eyes.
And then maybe some part of every day will feel like vacation.
All I need to get started is a warm croissant.
 
Tricia Caspers is an award-winning writer. Her full-length poetry collection “In the Belly of the Albatross” is available from Glass Lyre Press. She may be reached at caspers.ross@gmail.com