I came home from home. I’ll explain.
Traveling is different every time, even if it’s to the same place. I picked out my flight snacks at good ol’ Trader Joe’s: dried mangoes and trail mix. As I hurriedly jammed by snacks into my already bulky carry-on the morning of departure, I noticed an extra third plastic baggie full of Läckerli cookies. My dad must have noticed how much I liked them for dessert yesterday and packed them for me. Of course, once I got to snacking on the plane, the Läckerlis were the first to disappear.
Nine hours of flight from LAX to Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, an hour flight from Schiphol to the Geneva airport in Switzerland, an hour and a half train ride from Geneva to Fribourg, and finally a fifteen-minute drive to reach Marly. So yes, traveling to Marly is quite the time commitment, to say the least. But every minute of those tedious travels are validated the instant I embrace my grandparents.
My eyes scan their figures, searching for their distinct features that have become so comforting to me.
If my grandma were a color, she would be dark red. My grandma wears her maroon dress. It is sleeveless and shoots straight down to below her knees. In the light, the dress reveals subtle glints of gold thread carefully arranged in sinuous line motifs. She has kind, searching eyes that squint when she smiles, and the apples of her cheeks flush red and plump up to match her pleasure. For as long as I can remember, my grandma has used hot rollers to style her hair. The curly dark auburn cloud crowns her head and crunches softly against your cheek when you hug her tightly. She sports tan sandals decorated with rhinestones, but not the kitchy kind of rhinestones. These ones are tasteful and look really good on her. As usual, her toes are painted a wine red, a symbol I have inexplicably come to attach to a symbol of femininity.
Encased in the red dress is a robust and energetic body, a quality given away only by the bare limbs that emerge from under the fabric. Her arms and legs are bronzed, spotted and scratched up. This is a body that, from a young age to now, has worked for hours under the sun tilling soil, lifting weights. My grandma’s hands can be just as robust with the hoe as they are delicate with the needle. Also from an early age she meticulously sewed, embroidered, and pinned. There are many golden bands of metal around her fingers, and precious stones are embedded in some of the rings. Silver and pearl earrings dangle from her earlobes. A delicate chain of gold runs down her neckline, featuring a light blue Australian stone that adorns clavicle. My grandma has few wrinkles, which is impressive given she just turned 84, but the wrinkles that do exist are pronounced and unapologetic. Yeah that’s right, I’m a wrinkle, what of it?! Besides, wrinkles are cool. They’re a sign of a life well lived, one lived with vigor and emotion.
If my grandpa were a color, he would be blue. My grandpa wears a muted blue, collared short-sleeve shirt. Lighter bands of blue shade run horizontally across the shirt. He pairs the shirt with a pair of dark blue work pants. Although not obvious at first glance, thin trails of sky blue vertical lines reveal the pants are actually pinstriped. [He folds his pants up neatly once by about two inches. Shirt tucked into pants as always, all held together by a braided brown belt. My favorite part of his classic fit is the navy socks enclosed in brunet leather huaraches sandals.
The fingers on his right hand are bandaged, evidence of his ceaseless activity in wood and metal work. His hair is streaked grey and white, the occasional tuft sticking straight outwards from the cranium. The cowlicks are extremely endearing. A clear plastic ear piece cradles his left ear. His smile is impossibly sincere. Just like my grandma’s, his wrinkles are defiant and demonstrate vitality rather than wilting flesh. He has a lighthearted bobbing gait, often accompanied by sweeping hand gestures when he talks. His trusty blue LA baseball cap accompanies all his excursions, an emblem of where his three American granddaughters reside.
My grandmother’s ringing singsong laugh. The way my grandfather tears up at both greetings and goodbyes. Some things never change.
It is these consistencies that allow me to unravel my packed clothes, exhale a deep sigh of relief, and roam Swiss towns as if they were truly my own. Rediscovering their idiosyncrasies instills in me a sense of inner peace. A home away from home, if you will.
Header image: Panoramic shot of old town Fribourg, Switzerland