It probably wouldn't take much detective work (probably wouldn't require leaving this very blog) to find my making that claim on previous occasions - Istanbul or Argentina, anyone? But really. We've just arrived home in Ann Arbor after rising at 3 am Glasgow time to head to the airport for an early morning flight to Amsterdam, then dally and deal with protocol for a while before boarding an extra-long flight (thank you turbulence over Greenland!) to arrive home nearly 19 hours after we started out. It's at times like this that I swear I'll never ever leave my comfy chair again to go abroad. That should last about five days before I start daydreaming about the next trip. It's not that I didn't enjoy my trip, it's just that traveling abroad seems such hard work at times. A luxury complaint, I realize.
The thing about going back to Glasgow is that it's different from a proper holiday, like escaping to the rainforest to unplug and decompress for days. It's a decidedly good thing and one I enjoy, but returning to one's childhood home is a relentlessly nostalgic process. Virtually every building, park, street, shop inspires a memory, a contrast, a confusion, even, about the notion of home and identity. I walked past a bush on Hyndland Road yesterday and automatically reached out to pluck a green mottled leaf from a bush, bending its waxy surface until it split neatly into two, then four, and so on. It wasn't until the pile was in my hand that I even realized that I had done it -- and that it's what I used to do, as a child, passing that very bush (or perhaps a cousin thereof) on the way to my Grandma and Grandpa Smillie's flat.
My childhood is everywhere there - in the particular light of a rainy November afternoon, in the floury smell of fresh-baked rolls wafting from Gregg's bakery on Byres Road, in the warmth from my Grandma Pringle's electric fire. And when I'm there, the talk - inevitably - turns to my mother, over and over again. Which is good. Which is right. It's largely why I'm there, to keep those precious connections open with her side of the family. But it takes something out of me, weighs every joy with an equal amount of melancholy.
On top of all of that, I get to rediscover Glasgow as an adult. As a child, my world there was small and there's so much more to the city now. Nor was I likely to appreciate the architectural masterpieces the city has to offer, from its trademark Victorian sandstone tenements to the infamous Charles Rennie Mackintosh design of the Glagow School of Art to the shocking ultra-modern "shell" of the armadillo conference center. Glasgow is a city of contrasts, a world-class city that somehow still feels like a small village, where the steeples of medieval churches and industrial smokestacks on the river bank share the skyline.
I used to say that I was going home when I went to Glasgow. Somewhere along the road, that changed - and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it. The Scots would sigh and wave a hand at my sentimentality, urging me to pull up my bootstraps and soldier on. I guess it proves where my home really is that the American in me wants to wallow in it a bit more, thinking about The Meaning of it all and wonder Who I Am.
But maybe not tonight. Tonight I'll just draw myself a bath and climb inside my own tub, keeping the reheats coming until the hot water gives out. Then I'll struggle to stay awake until the earliest hour I can possibly crawl into my bed with my sheets and my kitties. And I'll be home.