“I finally bought a gun the other day! Yesterday bought a lot of ammo! Beware liberals and zombies!!!”
John M. Rodgers
My first Christmas home in years really began about a month before — on Nov. 22, America’s Thanksgiving Day — when I drove past a place selling wreaths (3 for $12) and Christmas trees. “Already?” I thought, knowing I’d never seen those things for sale so early before I left for Korea. But the fact was clear: Christmas’ clamor had overtaken Thanksgiving.
“I don’t even know if I’m ready,” said an elderly man in jeans and a thick flannel coat as he schlepped into the Moultonborough, New Hampshire polling station to cast his vote in the 2012 general election. A younger man holding the door just ahead of him smiled and said, “You’ll do just fine.” With a shrug of his shoulders and a grunt, the old man headed into the voting room to show his ID, obtain a ballot and slip behind a red, white and blue curtain where he’d pick up a No. 2 pencil and fill in the bubbles next to the candidates of his choice.
"Somewhere in Asia" "Under west China" "Northeast of Japan." Among a classroom of 18 college freshmen, these were the three best answers I got when I asked the location of South Korea. Asked if they knew anything about the country, the Korean War and Psy's song "Gangnam Style" were the only things anyone could summon. This constituted my return to the U.S. classroom — speaking to a series of college philosophy classes about my experiences in Korea. It was a rough landing.
One of the reasons that many people move their life abroad is to put some distance between that life (with all its compartments) and other things, including family. Regardless of the advancement of technology, that physical distance still provides a buffer and a certain level of control over how much interaction with and influence on one’s life family has. That move, that gigantic schlep over the oceans, dwarfs the move away to college or the relocation from one coast to another. And as the years pass and that space becomes part of life, the return grows all the more difficult.
It’s been a month (well, 33 days to be exact) since I boarded a 10 a.m. Asiana Airlines flight out of Korea and arrived in New Hampshire, northeastern U.S., around 9 p.m. the same day, 13 hours back in time. The world is that small; more than 15 hours in the air, two more in a car and I found myself in the boondocks, the woods and stars the only visible things outside my brother’s Cape-style home. There would be a lot to get used to.