“Wesa goen home!” Jar Jar Binks exclaims jubilantly moments before Queen Amidala and her entourage board her sleek starship for their return journey to Naboo. Can you blame Jar Jar for his unrestrained enthusiasm? He is akin to a fish out of water [almost literally] while on the daunting, intimidating city planet Coruscant. He is thrilled to be venturing home to Naboo. The same cannot be said for the Queen. Oh, Amidala Naberrie most likely is happy to be returning to her beautiful, lush home world, but since her trip to the capital had been less than auspicious, her hoped-for elation is tempered with both disappointment and determination. [She is one shrewd cookie. The Senate may not have jumped to Naboo’s and her aid, but she is a woman and leader of action. Plan A didn’t work. As any great strategist knows – have a Plan B. 🙂 ]
Years later, troubled by visions/dreams that have been plaguing both his sleeping and waking moments, Anakin Skywalker, Jedi padawan to the learned Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, is driven to abandon his mission [to protect Amidala, now a Senator], and return to his home world of Tatooine. He hasn’t been there in about 10 years. He vowed to his mother he would return – I think it would be safe to say Anakin always imagined his return to Tatooine would result in a happy reunion between mother and son, not wrought with fear and dread. With Padmé along for the ride, Anakin returns to Tatooine only to have his worse fears be true: his mother has been taken hostage by the always-threatening Tusken Raiders. Upon locating the offending tribe’s encampment, Anakin finds that his beloved mother has been tortured – which tortures Anakin’s heart and soul. You know what ensues [but I’ll tell you anyway 😉 ] – Shmi dies in her son’s arms … which awakens a darkness in Anakin that I believe he never knew existed … and Anakin goes on a deadly rampage. Never before facing anyone quite like Anakin, every single Tusken Raider – male, female and child – in that camp is summarily cut down. Anakin’s first trip home to Tatooine is the antithesis of what he always imagined.
Fast forward more than two decades, and Anakin’s now grown son, Luke, returns to his home world [also Tatooine], albeit under slightly different – yet similar – circumstances [the results were somewhat different, definitely were intended differently; in both scenarios, both Luke and Anakin were on rescue missions]. Luke has a plan to rescue his friend Han Solo, who has been ‘hanging around’ Jabba the Hutt’s palace. By the time Luke shows up at Jabba’s door, Luke has pieces of the plan in place. Lando is ensconced as one of Jabba’s guards. Droids C3PO and R2D2 have been “given” to Jabba as a gift – but that was merely a ploy to get the duo inside the palace. And while the plan to get Leia and Chewbacca on the inside has gone slightly awry, at least Han has been thawed out of his carbonite prison by the time Luke arrives on the scene. Jabba is not cowed by Luke’s claim that he, Jabba, will pay a steep price if he does not let Han, Leia, Chewie, R2, C2PO and Luke go. Jabba’s mirth at Luke’s supposed ludicrous claim intensifies as Jabba notes Luke’s calm stance. While many of his own entourage may be weak-minded enough to succumb to Luke’s “tricks”, Jabba cannot be influenced so, and is prepared to let a terrible fate befall the young Jedi and his friends. Loaded aboard his palatial sail barge and skiffs, Jabba leads everyone to the infamous Dune Sea, and is ready to dispatch Han and his would-be rescuers by feeding them to the monstrous Sarlaac. “… I used to live here, you know,” Luke says to Han as they fly over the endless sands of Tatooine. Han replies, drolly: “You’re gonna die here, you know. Convenient.” Our heroes’ odds don’t look particularly good at this point, but where there’s life, there’s hope. Luke’s Plan A – Jabba releasing all members of the party into Luke’s hands – didn’t work out. Like a good leader, Luke has Plan B up his sleeve.
Watching those moments as the skiff skims the sands transpire – and imagining what may have been going through Luke’s mind as he gazed across the wide sea of sand – I can’t help but think all sorts of memories exploded in his mind’s eye. He left Tatooine with the horrific image of seeing his aunt’s and uncle’s charred bodies etched in his mind, and yet … there must have been many memories of happier times that crept through his memory banks: hanging out with his best friend, Biggs, and other buddies like Cammie and Fixer, racing through Beggar’s Canyon in his T-16 Skyhopper, testing his prowess as he skirted one dangerous curve after another, knowing he was loved and cared for by his guardians, Beru and Owen. Going home can be bittersweet.
As I write this, my youngest, Caitlin, is spending her last night in Japan – the land to which she traveled a little more than two years ago to live and work. Drawn to the culture of the Far East, it was a ‘no-brainer’ that one of her degrees would be in Asian Studies. When one of her college professors told Caitlin about the job opportunities in Japan, it seemed a good fit for our youngest – although it would mean that, if offered a position, she would move very, very far away from us for quite some time. [And I thought LA, where my oldest lives, was far! 😉 ] If she was happy, I could live with living so far away from her, with not getting to see her very often. I believe I have held up pretty well [if I do say so myself 😉 ], missing her as much as I do. When Caitlin came home for a brief stay this past Christmas, she told her dad and me that her tenure at her job would come to a close at the end of July, and it was her plan to return home [to the U.S., if not necessarily to her home with Tom and me] by mid-August. There was a lot of time between January and now, and to be perfectly honest, I did not intend to count my chickens before they were hatched. Her plan was to return, but she could just as easily opt to find a new job in the Land of the Rising Sun and remain there [as one of her closest friends did]. The Great Countdown – mere hours now – has begun. She is due to take her seat on her homeward-bound flight in just over 24 hours. Right about now I feel as jubilant as Jar Jar. “Shesa comen home!” I want to shout!
I may be brimming over with joy at the prospect of seeing Caitlin tomorrow evening, but I also can’t help but think just how bittersweet this departure from a life she has enjoyed will be for her. I know there have been aspects of life in the U.S. that she has missed while living in Japan. And I know there are facets of Japanese life that she will miss just as much when she returns here. She forged some strong friendships in Japan – friends who she will miss a lot. She has made memories and had experiences that will impact her the rest of her life. The relative uniqueness of her life abroad will, to a certain extent, make her different [in a good way, I hope]. She’ll have more than reacquainting herself with driving on the right side of the street to get used to. There undoubtedly will be some culture shock with which to contend. Re-acclimating to life in the U.S. will be both familiar and foreign. Yes, this is where Caitlin was born and raised, so no, this world is not really all that foreign to her. But like Anakin and Luke, two-plus years ago, Caitlin's life took a path that took her very far away, forcing her to adapt to a different way of life. I have no doubt she’ll readjust to life in the U.S., but I have to remind myself that I must give Caitlin the time she needs to make the transition. I don’t want to get so caught up in the thrill, the joy of having her home that I forget about what she may be going through.
As her mom, I must remember what it was like for me to experience the very real culture shock I experienced when I was in the Marine Corps. Just as sure as Caitlin was about moving back to the U.S., I knew I had made the right decision to leave the familiar and trade it for life in the military. However, whether it was arriving at Parris Island, S.C. for recruit training or crisscrossing the U.S. from one base to another for my schooling, every time I arrived at a new destination, I went through the ordeal of getting used to life in a new venue among complete strangers. My husband can attest to my dark, questioning thoughts – there were plenty of phone calls and letters home at the onset of each new assignment. Was I mad to inflict such change into not only my life but into our life as well??? His calm voice and demeanor permeated the thoughts of doubt I had, and it did not take long for me to get back on course. [Make no mistake about it – in the U.S. I may have been, knowing what to expect at each new base I may have been aware of, but every time I stepped onto a new base, I was stepping into a new, foreign world. Every commanding officer has her/his own way of doing things. Within guidelines, some are more lax, some more strict. And each base, situated in different parts of the country, was infused with the different cultural aspects of that geographic corner of the U.S. The differences may have been subtle, but they existed all the same.] One thing life in the military teaches you quickly – be flexible, and learn to adjust [that’s two lessons 😉 ]. If one can’t succeed at either, one will be bereft for the duration of one’s tour. Thankfully, those are lessons that are easily adapted to every facet of life. If need be, I hope to be able to share those lessons with Caitlin – there is the distinct possibility she’ll be able to navigate her re-acclimation all on her own. As long as she knows her dad, sister and I are here for her, that is what truly will matter.
There is something satisfying about coming home, especially if after a long absence. You go on vacations, and you know that as much as you enjoy traveling, visiting new places or revisiting those spots with which you are familiar, when you walk through your front door, you breathe a sigh of satisfaction and utter, “It’s good to be home.” There’s no mistaking that sense of happiness that washes over you. 🙂 Yet, every time you come home, you are a little bit different. There’s no avoiding that.
Yet, true as that may be, I like to think it's always possible to come home.
Until next time,
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