As another season draws to a close, I feel that these past few weeks have really hit an all-American high. We've had a flurry of block parties and beaches, baptisms and birthdays all topped off with a weekend city break that felt like the summer's last hoorah. As usual, there's been the same heady mixture of highs and lows, but I think that maybe, just maybe, I might have finally turned a corner. And as summer gives way to the first signs of autumn, (still can't call it fall!) I can really see how far we've come.
Our first block party brought together all those familiar faces we've waved to on our early morning dog walks. Far too many times, my immediate neighbours have been subjected to the sight of me in my slippers and 'sweats' being led, bleary-eyed, around the block by Lennie the terrier, so it made a change to meet them whilst I am properly dressed and made up (and not carrying a bag of dog poop!).
As we gathered together on a small green in the centre of our little community, I was struck by how great it feels to get to know those who live close by and to learn more about each other than just what time we put out our bins! We chatted, we laughed, we ate and we properly introduced ourselves. When you move overseas, it's important to find your 'community', and this provided the perfect opportunity to do that.
A real high point was the recent baptism at the beach arranged by our church. What struck me on that day was that we no longer felt like new-comers, but instead were among many friends. Son #2 filmed the event with his drone and watching the awesome bird's-eye footage of 100 people being baptised in Lake Michigan gave me a new perspective on our situation. We are part of something big, and we have found belonging. Despite looking so tiny from hundreds of feet above, we were part of the bigger picture - not on the edges looking in, but right in the middle, waist-deep in the lake, surrounded by people who are no longer strangers.
A recent weekend in the city provided the perfect get-away. We got to stay in a rather swanky apartment complete with roof-top pool and spent time exploring the city that has now become familiar thanks to all the bus and boat tours we've done in recent months. An evening river walk and drinks took a spectacular turn when it was disrupted by a dramatic thunder storm that left us shocked and soaked in just seconds. Watching the lightening forks above the city skyscrapers was both beautiful and a little terrifying! Once again, I had the sensation of being so small and yet that feeling of being lost in the vastness of a new city no longer exists.
A discussion over dinner a couple of nights ago revealed that we're all still at different stages of adjustment. Son #2 is still dreaming about his old school, his old street and our UK home, but his new American friends are there too. I'm still buried beneath layers of bureaucracy that prevent me from working, but which have allowed me to volunteer and meet people and understand what really motivates me. It's a constant source of both frustration and reflection and I have no idea about the true meaning of the journey I'm on or where it will lead. Husband is, in his words, 'over the worst' and often comes home smelling of caramel, which can only be a good thing! And Son #1 is looking forward to his second year at university whilst currently enjoying a lads' holiday in Prague - quite the jet-setter and a million miles from the young man who, just a year ago, was nervously about to leave home for the first time.
After our weekend in the city, husband and I expressed how nice it was to get back 'home' to our own bed. It's taken eight months, but yes, I finally feel 'at home'. It was the first time we had felt this way about our house here. I no longer need my sat-nav to find my way around, I know where things are in the supermarket, I'm glad to get back to my own bed. These are the little things that have taken time to come together to make daily life feel less like some crazy extended holiday and more like our everyday routine. There's still things that need to fall into place, but this new perspective has shown me that time really is the key.
Autumn is the last season of our first year in America, bringing us back full circle to our arrival last winter - no doubt it will bring with it more changes, more new experiences, more adventures and more emotions, but it's ok, because we're now at home and among friends.