Writing about one’s daily life (which I have done here during this year, and in various journals for much longer than that) can be both a blessing and a curse. Having a lasting record of everything you’ve done allows you to look back and remember, to laugh at good times and cringe at others, to trace your growth and evolution. However, it also provides mute testament to how fast time is passing, when you look back at a particular time or event and realize that months or years have passed.

For example, I just looked back to see what we were doing two months ago, on April 9. That was the day we went to our friend J’s house for a barbeque, and sat on his deck drinking wine and watching the swallows and bats come out as the sun set. That was two months ago. It seems like a few days.

Two months from now, we will be back in California, back Home, wherever that is. We certainly won’t be in our house just yet, as there is much work to do before that point. I wish there wasn’t, I wish we could just arrive home and walk back in as though we’d never left. But no, there is construction and painting to be done, a container to be unpacked, things to be put away or perhaps tossed after a year of disuse.

What a thoroughly strange concept.

I’m already starting to think of all the little things that I’ll have to get used to again. Curbside recycling, for one thing. One-stop shopping, for another. I was reminded of this again last night when we set out to buy provisions for dinner, which turned into an hour-long walk and ended up with a delicious, fresh dinner and a fruit bowl overflowing with ripe goodies.

At the butcher, we watched our chicken get carved with expert skill and a very sharp knife. Then, we walked down the street to our favorite fruiteria, which is run by a Palestinian man and his Mozambiquan wife. In case you thought I was wrongfully maligning our produce selection the other day, let the record be corrected: it is amazing, if you’re willing to walk a little further.

Last night I filled bag after bag with dark red cherries, soft peaches, plums so ripe you have to eat them over the sink, and shiny strawberries without a hint of white on them. The guy even packed our bags with the most fragile things on top — they never do that at home! And all that fruit and veggies, plus some TP and canned beans and sardines, cost around 20 euros. Incredible. And were I so inclined, I could’ve bought everything from floor cleaner to flip flops to cutlery, all in that one small store. Now that is what I call one-stop shopping!

As we were eating dinner, I teased Gabe that I’d have to change my shopping habits when we get home. No longer will one stop at Trader Joe’s suffice for all our pre-packaged grocery needs. No, now I will have to go there for cereal and dried goods, then to the farmer’s market for fruit, the French bakery for bread, the big new Safeway for freshly butchered meat, etc. (Actually I’ll probably be lazy and still just go to TJs, but it definitely won’t taste the same.)

But those are largely superficial concerns. Deep down, I feel my internal compass turning toward Home. I’m entering that in between place, where my body is in one location and my mind is in another. Funnily enough, the record shows that I entered that same state about a year ago, towards the end of June, as we started to get ready to leave.

Making my state of limbo even keener is the fact that I’m planning to do at least some preliminary packing this weekend. Most of our stuff will leave Portugal before we do, accompanying various visiting family members when they leave. It feels like a lot to do, but in reality, our flat is very small, and I suspect it will empty out much faster than I thought. By the time the last relative leaves in a month, we’ll be down to a skeleton crew of belongings, enough to fill a (large) carry on and a (very large) suitcase of no more than 23 kilos each.

How can you dismantle a year’s experience into 23-kilo portions? How can I fit all the walking, talking, laughing, learning, eating, and living we’ve done this year into just a few suitcases? Well, I guess this weekend it will be time to find out.

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