Alternative reality #2- we fly home today

Our dog Bella is asleep near my feet, never more than about 1 foot away from me. She is "dogging" me since Chris and the kids went up to the Adirondacks with grandparents yesterday. Perhaps she thinks if she can sleep on me, I won't leave (last time we left, we were gone for 10+ months... it's hard to know if someone is going to up and leave for that length of time again). Lucky her, she gets to go to the lake herself with me later in the week.

Today is the day we were supposed to come home from Sweden. I received a message yesterday from Delta. "We're sorry, you're trip has been canceled." Not quite sure what we would have done if we were still in Sweden and received this the day before we were supposed to fly home.

What an odd alternative reality since late February. I've been picking through my own blog posts to craft a more synthesized post for Penn State's social science research institute that looks at Sweden's experience juxtaposed with our own experience. No wonder the last few months feel like a blur... they have been, with so many life changing events happening in the matter of days, months, a season-- all crammed together and moving both too quickly and too slowly at the same time.

A friend of ours interviewed Chris on Friday for a blog called "Dear Pandemic" - written by a group of self-proclaimed "nerdy girls", it is a group of women researchers and doctors working to distill
what they know into plain English. Michelle's interview of Chris is on medium: "What’s It Like to Live with Covid-19 for a Long Time? Here’s My Friend’s Story".

I recently asked Chris if he would have canceled our trip to France in late Feb. in exchange for not getting covid... "France?" he replied, followed by something like "I would have not gone to Sweden if I knew I wouldn't have gotten this."

So it's hard to think of the alternative of coming home today- having finished out the spring as expected- traveling, meeting colleagues, working on projects, visiting Finland and my host family from when I was an exchange student in 1991 to Turku, experiencing midsommar the Nordic way. I do have a post that I've been working over time to document both the transition home, and the highlights of our trip in the "before times." Perhaps I'll finish them. Perhaps not.

Our house finally feels like our own after nearly a month of cleaning, finding unpleasant surprises, and unpacking. Most of my houseplants are back where they belong. Our cat and dog have settled in. I sorted through a years' worth of mail from my offices yesterday. Our freezer is getting stocked up, preparation for when things come slamming shut again (Penn State is in the top ten in the US for the most students in the country. Law classes start on August 19th, while main campus opens up the following week). Students are already coming back, with bars full this weekend to celebrate the Arts Fest that wasn't held in person this year.

Who knows what this year will bring, but it's been a rough one so far-- for us, and for many others. Not at all how I expected our year abroad to end, when our alternative reality meets our actual reality. Time to see what's coming up in the garden, ever followed by Bella, our dog.