In the end, it was the most painfree trip we'd taken during our year abroad. No Heathrow Terminal 5 luggage roulette, like with Rome. No cattle-call RyanAir boarding hell, like with Dublin. No last-minute snag with the dog's crate, like when we'd moved to England in the first place. To paraphrase Shakespeare, nothing became Oxford like our leaving of it.
We'd been fretting over our luggage--two checked cases each, stuffed to bursting, weighed with a borrowed scale--but each was under the limit. If you were standing near the British Air baggage check-in yesterday morning and saw a family of four high-fiving each other after each suit case was hefted onto the scale, that was us. The flight was a bit bumpy but BA provides a nice U.S. re-entry service: just watch "Semi-Pro" and "The Simpsons" on the little video screen and you're re-acclimated to the States.
Our driver was waiting for us at Dulles. I don't think I'll ever get over the thrill of seeing my name in Magic-Marker on a clipboard. "Why yes, I'm John Kelly." Then to BA cargo where, after 14 hours in his crate, Charlie the dog was set free, no worse for wear. He seemed to take special pleasure in that first long pee on American soil.
We climbed back into the van and proceeded to...wait in a traffic jam. That's when I truly knew we were back in Washington, a place where any trip can take anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours. But I wasn't in any hurry. It was costing me the same no matter how long the ride. And I felt no sympathy for the driver, who said he had to pick up another customer in Gaithersburg at 4 p.m. Let's see, our plane was scheduled to land at 1:30, we had to clear Customs and pick up a dog, then drive around the Beltway to Silver Spring? And he thought he could get to Gaithersburg by 4? The fool!
In the end, we arrived home at 3:59 and I wished the driver luck with his ion propulsion-drive system.
After 10 months on Osberton Road our Amurican house seemed huge. Huge but welcoming. Our tenants, Gordon and Leslie, had left it in just as good shape as we'd left our Oxford house. The only glitch was that the lawn service we'd contacted hadn't mowed since Gordon and Leslie moved out a month ago. The front yard was a wonderful ocean of grass, like something from the prairie.
I don't even know where to start with cutting it. I think I may need a scythe. Or some sheep.