If you knew my mother at all you know that she loved her job. And you also probably know that where she worked was a pretty long drive from our house. From the time I was 7 to the time I was 13 I drove to school with my mother taking the same basic route every day. It was a formative time in my life and since there was plenty of traffic I got to know those roads pretty well.
Studying abroad I was constantly confronted with new sights and smells and tastes. They opened up a whole world of flavors and aromas I never knew existed, but they also distracted me from recognizing what I was leaving behind. I've been home now for just over a week and I can honestly say that I haven't had any serious reverse culture shock. What I have experienced is a strange shock of the senses. What a memory couldn't bring back for me, a familiar smell or sight can. Cleaning a drawer in my room last week stirred up a smell that I associate directly with my first summer at Camp Ramah almost 10 years ago. Passing something in the basement hit me with a smell I always associated with Fridays in grammar school when our Polish cleaning lady came. And driving to a friend's house who lives past school's Lake Cook exit on the I-90 suddenly brought me back to the years of driving to and from school with my mother.
As the misty rain fogged up my window I remembered arguing with my mom about when to turn the windshield wipers from slow to medium. I've always been a little OCD about that and I hated when she would leave them going full speed after the rain had tapered down to a mist. I remembered driving past the furniture store next to the exit when it was still under construction and I remembered the time we drove as far as our exit in the heavy snow only to pull off and find out school had been canceled. I remembered the smell of the stale M & M's and Diet Coke my mom bought after particularly difficult days at work and the books on tape she listened to after I graduated to fill the quietness of the car. I remembered Eric and Kathy in the Morning on 101.9 FM and the horrible 7 AM traffic and the nail polish smell from the times she tried to paint her nails in the car while driving because she didn't have time at home.
Barcelona was amazing and I am grateful for every moment I had. I am so glad I had the opportunity to study abroad and see a world so different from my own, but coming home is not easy. Being away allowed me to forget so much, it allowed me to hide in a new and exciting future without reminding me too much of my past. But I'm home now and ignoring the memories nagging at me is that much harder. I know it's going to be a long summer, but I think I'm finally ready to face it.