My mom and I arrived safely in England yesterday afternoon, to be greeted first by our four gargantuan suitcases (OK three of them were gargantuan and mine, the fourth was tiny and hers) and shortly afterward by my husband, who had three more suitcases in tow, ranging from heavy to leaden. We sheepishly manhandled our three luggage carts (!!!) onto and off of the rental car shuttle, all the while protesting that really, we’re not usually heavy travelers, we are moving here… honest! Really!

A whole lot of fun navigation later (Gabe’s mantra: hug the center! hug the center! And mine: don’t fall asleep! must get us to the house! don’t fall asleep!), we arrived at our spacious and newly remodeled farmhouse out in the precise middle of nowhere. We struggled our suitcases up into our room, unpacked to a tolerable extent, showered, and then awaited my mom’s arrival, who went to the local Waitrose to buy “basic” provisions.

She arrived back a few hours later, with far more bags than just the “basics” necessitated, and we ate our first real meal of the entire day. Funny how that happens when you’re traveling — the day we left, Mom and I ate about five proper meals, both in the airport and on the airplane. The day we arrived, I had a yogurt right before we landed, and then subsisted entirely on snacks that I’d brought until about 7 PM. As my mom pointed out, if I were ever in one of the airplanes that got stuck on the tarmac for eight hours, all the rest of the passengers would adore me.

As I unpacked the grocery bags, and then later, when we went on a walk through the fields after dinner in an effort to postpone passing out for a little while longer, I realized: I am home. I miss these things, the foods you can only get here, the fields of gold and green, the hedgerows higher than your head, the tiny country roads with cars zooming by at homicidal speeds. They are foreign, yes, in that they are different from what we have at home. But their difference brings me comfort, because they are the foreign things I grew up with, and I have many fond memories associated with them.

Scotch eggs, pork pies, pickle, and all the inventive and wonderful prepackaged food they have here… all these things you can only get in Britain, my second home, home of my childhood and my graduate school years, home of punting and laughing with my parents and brother and the family that we only get to see every other year. I love this place, and never fully realized how much until now, when I am here as an adult. I am so incredibly glad to be here, and it’s making the thought of leaving Santa Cruz behind for a year feel slightly less overwhelming.

The best part is, now I get to share those memories with Gabe and the rest of my Californian family, who have never been here before. Somehow that makes me appreciate it all over again — telling them the stories associated with everything, sharing the foreign knowledge and habits it’s taken me a lifetime of living and visiting here to gain.

Despite our jetlag, Gabe and I both slept in this morning, and the rest of the Californian contingent arrived into Heathrow a few hours ago. They should be reaching the farmhouse — which comes complete with crowing roosters and a horse being groomed right outside our kitchen window — any minute now. And the fun begins.