We made it back to Baltimore after an uneventful flight. When we moved to Shanghai, we flew business class—something we should never have let the children experience. When they found out the trip back for summer vacation would be in economy, the reaction was universal. “Economy?!” they all exclaimed. “How can we survive in economy?!” I must admit, I was feeling the same way. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting straight up for thirteen hours and fighting to use the shared bathroom. The new baggage restrictions were an unpleasant surprise—only one bag each for an international flight!—and having to pay for the wine I would need to survive flying with all three children by myself added insult to injury. Luckily the kids are all still small enough to curl up in the seats so they arrived in Newark with several hours of sleep under their belts. I wasn’t quite so lucky, but we made our connection and got to Grandmom’s house without much drama.
I headed straight to Target as soon as I could get myself organized. I nearly had a panic attack as I filled my cart to overflowing. I had a long list of things that were all “Made in China” but actually unavailable for purchase in China. This is a most perplexing thing for me about living in Shanghai. We joked about not taking anything from the US to China that would just be returning to the country of its birth, but it is nearly impossible to find all those cheap but reasonably well made things that are made in Chinese factories for sale in China. There are poorly made things at all the markets and there are high end things in all the shopping malls, but that middle ground that is so crucial for elementary kids’ clothing, for example, is illusive. I had to force myself to stop with only one cart when I realized I was now just throwing random items I “might need” on top of the crucial items from my carefully planned list.
I had the same reaction in Whole Foods. I wanted to eat everything and could no longer muster up the energy to stop myself from just emptying entire shelves with my arm. I also found myself marveling at how cheap and reasonable all the food was—at Whole Foods! You know you have been shopping in the wrong places when a trip to Whole Foods seems like a bargain. Wait until I venture into Sam’s Club in a few weeks. I am sure they will have me forcibly removed from the store.
We spent our two weeks in Baltimore visiting friends and dealing with our house. The sale fell through a few days after our arrival and that took up plenty of the time I would have spent standing in front of my mother-in-law’s refrigerator and marveling at all the space inside it. I was also moved almost to tears by the efficiency of her washer and dryer and spent some time enjoying the fresh scent of clean clothes that had been allowed to dry completely. Oh, the things that I once took for granted. How I have missed you.