It is a perfect 81 degrees in the apartment right now. The ceiling fan is making its rounds. Our two little babes have turned in, and will now do their level best to sleep through the night. (Jet-lag is a doozy.) As for me, I will try to ward off the heavy eyelids, and bobbing head brigade until I’ve done a fair job of checking in with all of you.
We left the U.S. last Thursday. The Sunday before that, we went to watch football on the big screen at my parent’s house one last time. I overheard my mom say to Leila, “I don’t think you’ll be watching football on TV next Sunday, Leila.” I nearly slid off the couch into a oozy puddle of weariness at hearing that. I had been in serious prep mode for about a month, and had been making concerted packing efforts for a good two to three days. I could barely imagine anything beyond getting on that plane. Life was just hazy piles of this and that, surrounded by the glaring lights of cleaning to get done before the house-sitters moved in, and hustled along by the honking horns of our wildly long ‘To Do’ list. Yuck. Let’s stop remembering that!!
Then today, we sat on the familiar stone bench outside JP’s home, and we sipped chai. Leila was tucked into a bag of potato chips cooked up village-style, a gift from her doting, ever more-endearing great grandpa (a.k.a. Big Tata.) JP and I were munching roasted cashews and sponge cake. I could not have imagined one iota of this idyllic scene while we watched that football game, but here I was. And then JP asked whether I could even believe that tomorrow was Thursday, one week since we departed the U.S.? Again, I could not.
Much has happened in the span of a week. In some ways, I don’t think that we have ever had a better trip to India than this one. In other ways, I don’t think that we’ve ever had a more difficult trip that this one. We flew from Grand Rapids to Cincinnati, to Paris, to Bangalore. The first (and greatest?) crisis that we faced was in Grand Rapids when, after bidding good bye to ‘Holland Tata and Ava,’ we had to go through security. It was hard enough for me, tired from the stress of packing and having come down with a nasty cold, weepy from saying goodbye, and further discombobulated with the removing of coats and shoes and computers and ziplock baggies, all while holding an infant but not being allowed to hold my three-year old’s hand as she proceeded through the beeping machine into the line of security guards. Then, when Leila panicked and began to wail because poor Elmo had to go through the X-ray machine, I cried too. I didn’t cry because I feared for Elmo… those security guards were actually quite kind… rather, I cried knowing that there were so many things that I had forgotten to tell Leila, so many things that would have prepared her better, and helped her along the journey. I cried because I knew that she’d just have to trust me (us) in so many ways on this trip, and I hoped we were all up for it. The good news is that Elmo made it through just fine, and so did the rest of us.
We were thankful that everything was on time. We did not have to deal with turbulence. Fellow passengers and airport/flight personnel were incredibly helpful all throughout the trip. People even occasionally told us that we had good kids… usually it was some lady who Reuben had flirted with, but on our last flight it happened to be the young 20s guy who shared our fourth seat in the center aisle. Leila had even slept with her feet flung over the armrest on him, and this was the flight that we sadly did not receive a bassinet for Reuben, who subsequently slept for just a few short, short naps. That was one sweet man.
It was adorable to watch Leila delight in the little trays full of food that were delivered to her. You should have watched her eat her salad!! We had a much needed laugh mid-way through, while entering the waiting area where we would catch a bus to the next terminal in the Paris airport. The moment that we reached the bottom step, Leila told us with much expertise, that it smelled like Russ’! (a local diner for those not from Holland…)
I spent way too much time in tiny airplane bathrooms or airport stalls trying to help Leila avoid sticking her hand or her butt into too many germs. JP would probably agree in the realm of changing our wiggly Reuben’s diaper! By the end of the last flight, we were so exhausted and ready to head home to bed, that JP told me as we exited the plane that he was going to pay one of those guys that is always trying to “help you” get your luggage at the airport, something he has never been known to do. I was almost in shock, but I just tried to look agreeable knowing that we had eight pieces of checked baggage, and had already been struggling with our five carry-ons. Rubbing our eyes, and just about getting our second wind, JP said yes to the first luggage guy, and I went to sit on a chair with Leila and Reuben. Each time that I managed to catch JP’s eye he would indicate that they had found -0- pieces of luggage. Soon everyone began to leave… with their luggage, and ours was no where to be found. This had happened before (thankfully?) so we knew just what to do, and spent the next hour doing it, getting all of the paperwork and details taken care of (and helping a few other forlorn lost-luggage companions as well.)
Around 3am we fled the doors of the airport into the loving arms of our family, who had patiently waited for hours to collect us. On the way home, I sat in the back seat with Leila and Judith, her 2 1/2 year old cousin. They held hands. It was cute, and it made the whole stinkin’, longer-than-ever, journey SO worth it to me.
I find it hard to believe, but tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. We won’t be having turkey and stuffing, but we will be attending a wedding, and thus will eat a rich, celebratory meal of some sort! Regardless, in the Thanksgiving spirit, let me tell you what I am thankful for, right here and now…
I am thankful to have family and friends in the U.S. that make good byes hurt so bad. I am thankful that our luggage arrived at 7am on Sunday morning. I am thankful that we are nearly all unpacked. I am thankful that my cold is getting gone. And, I am thankful beyond belief for our family here who have made this wild ride more comfortable, graceful, and good. We are happy to be here. Simple pleasures are making us glad.
Thank you, one and all, for being on the journey with us. We love you, and will certainly have much more to say as the jet lag wears off!