All my bags are packed I'm ready to go
I'm standing here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
So kiss me & smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go
Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh baby, I hate to go
Those lyrics might have worked for John Denver but I've got the Peek version for ya...
All my 3 trunks, 6 suitcases, and way too many carry-ons are packed
I'm (sort of) ready to go
I'm standing here, trying to figure out how to make the rest of my junk fit
I hate to wake up sleeping children at 3:30 AM to say goodbye
So kiss me, Daddy, & smile for me, Mama
Tell me that you'll Facetime with me
Don't cry because you caught Hudson's RSV and crying when congested is a terrible idea
Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh family, Oh Texas, I hate to go
Hudson came down with RSV a week before we left, and let me tell you, finding a place to pack a nebulizer in your carry-on luggage is no fun at all. Thankfully, the little guy bounced back in time for us to set off (not before infecting both my parents, taking them out for at least a week & a half).
We had an early flight out of Austin to LAX. And when I mean early, I mean hours on the clock that I hadn't seen since the beginning days of nursing. That first flight was pretty painless, since Kevin wrangled all three children, Hudson sat calmly in a seat all by himself, and I got to read mindless novels and think on how relaxed this trip was going to be for me.
While it might be true that a picture is worth a thousand words, those would definitely NOT be the words used to describe our trek. That was probably one of the few calm moments where I even had a chance to pick up the iPad and snap a picture. Note that these will be the only pictures you'll see of the rest of the trip.
We had a 5 hour layover at LA, so I was prepared with airport activities, games, snacks, and when all else failed, an unashamed eagerness to exclaim "Look! A Christmas dog!" every single time I saw a Christmas traveler with their fuzzy pooch in tow. But instead of depending on my resourceful preparedness, we walked back & forth between terminals several times, trying to locate our gate. In the end, after lugging all of our children & Stuff (yes, I capitalized that on purpose because stuff of that magnitude really does warrant a capital status) through security lines twice to enter two separate terminals, we realized that our departing gate was only about two or three gates away from our arriving gate. Note to self: look at airport maps before traveling.
Our longest flight was a 14 hour doozy from LAX to Shanghai. I was prepared to duke it out with a Chinese mother of an infant in order to secure the bassinet for Hudson. Just based on simple mathematics, we deserved it because our family ratio was definitely in favor of the kiddos, and she had her mother traveling with her. And if you know anything about Chinese nai nais, you know that they are well equipped to give attention to any and every need of a child. Thankfully, that airline agreed with my logic and gave us the bassinet. Double thankfully, they ended up having two so the Chinese mama didn't have to hold her baby the entire time.
So we boarded the plane, crawled up and down the aisles for a while, drooled over the business class reclining seats which were a tantalizing row in front of us, and eventually gave the kids Benadryl to knock them out. I'm not even a little bit ashamed of drugging my children. There are some things in life that are just necessary.
About 10 hours into the flight, things took a turn for the worse. My immune system finally gave way to Hudson's bug and my sinuses were more clogged than Mopac during rush hour. I tried to sleep--fail. I tried to cry--fail. I tried to watch a movie but the flight attendant guilted me into trying to sleep again.
Speaking of flight attendants, can I just give kuddos to international flight attendants? One in particular really went to bat for our family. After Kevin held sleeping Micah for 5 hours, she made a bed for him on the airplane floor and said that if anyone gave us grief to come find her. Unhygienic & against all airline rules but such a relief to get that heat bag of a child off you. She then unzipped Hudson out of the bassinet safety harness. But what topped it all was when she reclined Sam's seat all the back and told the Chinese man behind him in no uncertain terms not to kick the seat because the baby was sleeping. Then she patted me on the head and told the miserable mama to get some sleep. If only she had offered me one of those reclining seats in business class...
We finally landed in Shanghai to a lovely breakfast/dinner/what time is it anyways? of weird airplane pizza. We gathered all our people and all our Stuff and were most definitely the last people off the plane. And this was the scene that welcomed me: the entire airplane cleaning crew was lining both sides of the jetway, staring, giggling, clucking, and even clapping at the foreign lady with a black child in each hand and a white child attached to her. And it might be the jet lag fogging my memory but I'm pretty sure that the jetway carpet was red. A red carpet welcome...how appropriate for the foreign celebrities.
We had booked a hotel for our layover but were surprised to find out that we were not allowed to check our luggage all the way through because our layover exceeded 12 hours. That meant we had to collect all 14 checked pieces and transport it on 4 dinky luggage carts to airport storage before we could even begin the trek to our hotel room for the night. It was literally Kevin pushing a cart for 10 feet and then doubling back to pick up another cart. Let's just say it was a long time before we made it to the hotel. During our airport odyssey, I did make a little friend named Evan. He was a Chinese boy of about 5 or 6 whose mother was goading him to talk with the foreigner. I figured I could at least justify the gobs of money she was most likely pouring into his English education by asking him probing questions like "What's your favorite color?" and "What are your hobbies?" A most enthralling conversation indeed, I learned Evan's favorite hobby is skipping. Money well spent, Chinese mama.
It was Christmas Eve, and Santa did in fact visit our hotel room that night by bringing a decent night of sleep. The next morning, after being given a gift-wrapped apple by the Chinese hotel staff as a Christmas gift, we pilled into the hotel shuttle to head back to the airport for the final leg of our voyage. My sickness was getting worse every hour, so my sweet husband wrangled all the littles on that next flight so I could sleep.
We were met at the next airport by a dear friend and a bus to take us home. I'm not being liberal in the use of the word bus. Cloth covered seats, an undercarriage for luggage, and a driver, we could have taken our family and twenty of our near & dear friends for a joy ride around the province if we had wanted to. I didn't want to, in case you were curious. I wanted to go home. Yet since I hadn't quite figured out what or where home was, I really just wanted to bury my head in the sand like an ostrich.
Where we ended up was our apartment where we've lived for the past three years. It was clean, there was food in the fridge, and it was stationary. My head pounding, I went to bed at 2 PM and slept until 11. I have no idea what my children did during that time. Frankly, if they played with explosives and licked their China soiled shoes, I wouldn't have known about it or even had the energy to do anything about it if I did. But I slept. Glorious sleep.
The next few days bled into weeks. And here we are now. I don't remember a lot of the early days, which is probably a good thing because I wasn't a very nice person during them. Hopefully Kevin doesn't remember them either. The jet lag has lifted. Most of our bags are unpacked. We're making progress toward outfitting a new room for the big boys. The boys have loved reuniting with their old toys. Micah likes to stare out the window and is genuinely surprised that there are so many Chinese friends outside. We have a new house helper who serenades me over the phone on my anniversary, tells me 20 times a day that I'm so pretty, and asks daily if she can take Hudson home with her after work. My Chinese is coming back slowly, though I did try to ask for purple cabbage from the market and ended up with a freaky dried seaweed that I promptly gifted to our helper.
So I guess this is home again. Home again home in our Eastern home.