Welcome Home, Now Back to Me
As the Amtrak sputtered to a stop in Rennsallear I thought back to how my Dad would tap the breaks of the car, rendering my sister and I giggling rag dolls in the back seat. I had been travelling for 23 hours and my thoughts were skimming synapses as I struggled to stay awake. In one more hour I would be back home where I could finally relax. I had been living in Japan for a year. I had flown from Fukuoka to Tokyo to New York where I boarded a train for the final leg of my journey. In seconds I would see my mom. We would hug and kiss and drive to her house and, like a gallavant, I would entertain her with stories of the Orient.
“There he is!” I looked up and saw three fake blonds of varying wattage. Indeed, my mother, sister and aunt had all come to greet me. I suspected their change of hair color was unrelated to my arrival. I felt warm, wonderful and exhausted as I embraced all three Brady girls. Having grown up around women I knew that complimenting their hair had to be done immediately and convincingly. Years of theater improv training had prepared me to serve three separate, unique and rapturous reviews. There were giggles and details of who did who’s hair, and how many times before it “took”.
In the parking lot, the conversation quickly turned to how we were going to beat the other jerks out of there, the jerk who drove like a jerk while they were en route to the station, and what kind of jerks lay in wait on the road home. Something told me that all was not well in Hooterville, but I assumed that once we got on the road and I had time to answer all their questions about living in Japan, the trip home would be filled with laughter.
My 100-watt aunt was the first to mention Japan. “Anthony, how’s Japan?” Where to begin. Should I start with the challenge of having to learn a new language after the age of 40? Should I delve into cultural differences which delight and infuriate daily? Should I begin with work? Simple answers are best to start with. “It’s great!” I enthused, ready to pounce on the next question with quirky and hysterical details. But there was no next question. The subject of Japan had gone the way of hair color compliments.
“Well MY life isn’t great!” howled aunt peroxide. “That son of a b!tch kicked me out of my own house and changed the fxxxing locks! He’s got some nerve! I’m gonna get a shotgun, and I swear to God, I’m gonna blow his F…ING HEAD OFF!” The car went silent. I quickly scanned the faces of 60-watt and 40-watt for a clue as to how to proceed. They had endured the one-hour drive to the station in a cloud of F bombs and had shut down. 60-watt lit a cigarette.
I had been awake for 27 hours and was approaching invincibility so I dived into the conversation with the curiousity of Katie Couric. “Paul threw you out of your own house?” “It’s NOT my house! The deed is in his name and he can do what he wants. I don’t even have my clothes! He changed the locks Anthony! I swear to God I’m gonna kill THAT SON OF A B!TCH!” Fifty minutes later we pulled to a stop in front of mom’s house.
I had caught a cold a few days before leaving Japan. When I coughed on the plane, the passengers spun around to glare at me like pilgrims spying a witch. As I pulled my suitcase up the stairs I kept telling myself that a few more minutes of strength would be rewarded with 12 hours of sleep in my old bed. The coughing, fever and ringing of F bombs in my ears would all be forgotten.
“SURPRISE!” I walked into my surprise, welcome home party. My nieces, cousin, chocolate cake and booze. Everyone’s hair color had changed. More subtle compliments to be crafted. “Welcome Home Anthony” spelled out in sugar and butter cream. Home-made kalhua poured from a used one-gallon jug of Rhine wine. I had travelled 24 hours and 7000 miles, but it felt like I had never left.