I’m sitting in the back of my dad’s truck, holding Sofie’s hand over Henry, sleeping in his car seat. I have a pit in my stomach. We’re on our way to the airport after a long holiday to visit my family for Christmas and New Year. I feel unsteady, anxious. I’m not ready to go back home even after three weeks away. It used to be that the week and a half long trip that I would plan in the summer, the week at Thanksgiving or the two weeks at Christmas felt long, but since having kids, the weeks go by so quickly that I wake up on the day we leave wondering what happened to our time.
There are things I’m ready to get back to, of course. I’m ready for my own bed, to not deal with Sofie trying to go up the stairs by herself every time she gets a chance. I’m ready to get back to a routine. But I was enjoying having my whole family together, to have my sister by my side instead of a continent away. I was not ready to say goodbye or watch my mom and dad kiss Henry for the last time for who knows how long. And I am 100% not ready to find a new place to live, which is the priority for the next… well until we find a new place to live.
We make it to the airport after some traffic drama. There’s always construction going on in Texas. There’s always construction going on everywhere. We check-in, get the bags and car seats checked, and walk to the nearest security check point only to find that the TSA pre-check is in a different building. It buys us some time to walk together, to let my dad hold on to Henry a little longer. I try not to say too much. If I do, I’ll cry. There has never been a time in the history of me saying goodbye that I haven’t cried during or after we’ve hugged and parted. Before college fish camp the summer before my freshman year, I had only ever been away from them for the period of a one night sleep over. I’ve already choked back tears three times today. And now that I have kids, it’s the hardest it’s ever been to walk away.
Getting through security keeps my mind a little clearer as I have to focus. Get a hand check for my film. Get our coats off. Close the stroller. Keep Sofie from wandering off. Hand the agents our passports. Wait. Put our suitcases on the conveyor belt, make sure I grab everything as pieces of our life come out the other side of the x-ray scanner. Wait for film to be swabbed. Re-pack everything we’ve pulled apart. Henry needs a diaper change. The first of several.
We only have half an hour until our flight takes off. We need water, food, restrooms. Thank goodness we don’t have too much time. There won’t be much waiting, except the flight is a little delayed. We board late, we take off late. At least it wasn’t too late. On the plane, Sofie falls asleep asking for the Chex Mix my mom sent with us. She’s literally saying the words as her eyes close and her head lolls to one side. Henry is all bright eyes and standing up. It’s usually the other way around. Ben and I munch on some snacks and talk about what he’s been reading lately. I feed Henry just before he falls asleep in Ben’s arms. And there it is, the quiet.
I’ve dreaded flights for a while now. I used to love them, but now I find that my legs ache, that I can’t stay awake through a book even if it’s a damn good book. I can’t even stay awake through my new audio book. I spend so much time during flights checking the time and wishing we were there already, thinking about having to run through the airport with two little kids, wait for our bags and the car seats, find the car and drive 45 minutes to our home. I start dreading the grocery store run we need to make and taking down our Christmas decorations.
Then something happens. I glance out the window, and there’s snow on the mountains. We’re going over the Rockies. It’s one of my favorite things about flying in the winter. I love to see the ariel view of snow on the mountains, the grey peaks poking out from beneath the layer of white fluff. It’s calming, peaceful. It makes me feel like everything heavy, everything horrible in the world can be fixed if we’d all just enjoy the pleasures of snow.
I take a little break from sitting for a while, and I see something that makes me feel hopeful. The flight attendants are helping a woman walk to the toilets. They are kind and gentle and caring. I don’t always see that in people. I know it’s their job to help passengers, but I’m always taken aback and amazed and awed when I see tenderness from people going above and beyond their job to make someone feel taken care of. There’s a rainbow sitting over the lower clouds, and blue skies beyond that. I think, “we can do this, we can have unity and peace and love.” I am optimistic for the first time in a long time.
Sofie wakes up groggy. I love groggy Sofie. She reminds me of baby Sofie. As I sit here between Ben with sleeping Henry and Sofie slowly waking up, I think to myself that what I really could go for right in this very moment is a good cup of coffee. But, as plane coffee isn’t any good, that will have to wait.