I just got home from a wonderful four days in Philadelphia with my husband and two close friends.  We’ve been taking trips with this other couple since roughly 1987, I would say.   They know us, we know them, we have had lots of laughs, shared lots of bottles of wine and pounds of cheese, hundreds of gallons of ice cream and more pounds of chocolate than anyone could count.   We have seen each other through pregnancy, diapers, breast feeding, terrible twos, potty training, braces, homework struggles, first crushes, college and empty nests.  We have shared our hopes, our struggles and our parenting successes.  We have patted each other on the back for the really good stuff, and held each others’ hands for the scary stuff.

We spent four days exploring the historical sites in Philly, finding off beat shops and upscale restaurants.  We tried out a few bars and tasted some delicious tidbits.  We traded good natured barbs with Phillies fans and went to a couple of baseball games.

I loved the trip.  I loved the sense of freedom that always comes along with being “away”.  No bills to pay, no house to clean, no shopping, no cooking, ergo: no worries!  I loved the excitement of life in a big city, which is a real stretch from my usual existence.  I was filled with energy watching the jets zoom overhead, the ferries and tugboats moving on the rivers, the taxis and trucks and cars clogging the city streets. I loved the sight of Philadelphians walking the streets, and the sounds of a modern city on a busy day.   Mostly, though, I soaked in the joyful friendliness of the people in the City of Brotherly Love.

No kidding, everyone smiled. Everyone asked us if we needed anything. Everyone told us a bit about themselves, and asked about us, and everyone from the clerk in the chocolate shop to the bartender at the 5 star restaurant expressed their hope that we would enjoy out time as their guests.  They were scarily friendly, and it was awesome!!!

But our vacation came to an end. It was time to head North.  Back to the land of Red Sox, rude drivers, bills, cleaning, worries, real life.   We left the city at 5pm (after the men were stopped in traffic while President Obama passed within 15 feet of their gridlocked car!).  We crawled through snarls of traffic in Philly, New Haven, Hartford and even in the sparsely populated sections of Route 91 in Western Mass.  We got home at 1 AM.  We were so tired that we were almost hallucinating.  We dumped our luggage in the living room, emptied the cooler and headed straight for bed.  My head hit the pillow and the lights went out.

But I woke up somewhere around 4 AM, just as the sun began to rise.  I found myself going through the usual checklist (“Where am I?”, “What day is this?”, “What do I need to do today?”).  I lay there for a minute, far from the central AC of the hotel, or the beauty and vitality of the city.  As I reoriented myself to my surrounding, I felt my entire body relax.  I knew that I was Home.

Home is the place where the smells are all familiar (wet dog, pine forest, garlic, our shoes), the bed knows our bones and the sounds are  all the sounds that we expect.  No jets, no crowds, no taxis, no music.  Just crickets and wind and the gentle jingling of the dogs’ collars and tags.

I loved my trip to Philly with my friends.  But I loved waking up in my own bed, in my tiny town, even more than that.

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