My journey home started at 9:30 am on the morning of December 20. My teammates and I flew out of the Lugano airport and headed to Zurich. We were surprised to see all of the American players playing in Ticino on our flights. Even though we play against each other every night, there is a bond between all the Americans. It was nice to catch up with some of them on our long flight from Zurich to Chicago.
When the plane landed in Chicago I collected my bags and headed north on a bus to Milwaukee to spend my first few days back in the states with Liz and her family. It was great to finally spend a Christmas with the Schuelkes. Liz has come to Michigan a few times for Christmas and now it was time for me to see how the Schuelkes get down for Christmas. Unfortunately I had a nasty cold my first couple days back so I probably wasn't much fun to be around, though I had a great time with all the people I spent time with. The cold also affected my taste for things. I was so excited to eat American food again and my first time out I went to Qdoba. I couldn't taste anything. I left very disappointed.
I am getting a little spoiled living in Lugano the past couple of years. Even though we are in Switzerland it doesn't get very cold here. In fact, there are palm trees outside of my apartment building. I would estimate that in the winter we see highs in the mid to low 40's so it was a shock to me when I returned home. Liz did a great job of making a fire in the fireplace to keep me warm when I got too cold.
The Schuelke family Christmas was so much fun. We had a Christmas Eve brunch and then opened up presents in the living room. It was a little strange to have the kids around again opening up presents but strange in a good way. It was also nice to get to see Liz's brothers. That night we went over to Liz's grandpa's house and spent the night with that side of the family.
After the festivities were over, we went to the midnight mass at St. James church. It was so beautiful. This was my first time going to a Christmas Eve mass since I was just a little guy. The music was wonderful and it was such a joyous and peaceful celebration. Words can not describe the great time I had at mass. It is definitely going to be something I will do until the day I die.
Liz and I woke up bright and early on Christmas morning. It wasn't because of jet lag or in anticipation of opening up the presents that Santa had brought during the night. No, we awoke because we were going to spend all of Christmas day on a train travelling to God's country, Michigan.