I thought we had made it over the proverbial hump when we eased through customs in the Chicago airport. We declared our sun-dried tomatoes and dried porcini mushrooms and even admitted that we had spent a week on a farm petting Italian pigs and donkeys. After a 10-hour flight across the Atlantic during daytime hours (meaning each boy only slept a few winks), we were finally back on American soil. Local time read 3:00 p.m., but our Italian clocks told our bodies that it was 10:00 p.m. We had to retrieve our enormous mound of luggage, re-check it on our next flight, and go through security one last time before we could finally hunker down at our gate and wait for our plane to St. Louis….just an agonizing three hours away.
At first, our plan was to just let adrenalin take over. We bought the boys a smoothie at Starbucks, let them lean on the windows and watch planes take off, and derailed their exhaustion with Garrett’s cheese popcorn, pure Chicago gold. But after about two hours, the boys were totally bonkers. Louie would crawl across the airport at a frenetic pace, while Everett emitted peals of high-pitched laughter and chased after him. They were wild animals running blind and would not be muzzled. The airport hummed with afternoon business travelers, giving us that look that says, “Why the hell can’t you control your children?” I wanted to wear a sign that averted the gazes of disapproval. “Hey- we’ve been traveling abroad for over a month, just got off a ten-hour flight, and it is about four hours past their bedtime…so please, just smile and look back at your laptop.” We weren’t going to last another hour. My watch, still set on Roman time, said midnight. I scooped up Louie, much to his disapproval, forced him in to the Ergo and headed for a dark hallway near the elevator that was mostly unpopulated. It was not a pretty fifteen minutes, but he eventually gave in to my sleeper hold. When I got back to the gate, Everett was crumpled in to the umbrella stroller with the iPad, zoning out to a Sesame Street episode. Only 45 minutes until we board, a quick one-hour flight, and then we are finally home.
At last it was time to board. We squeezed on to the tiny propellor jet, got the car seats installed, and attempted to get fastened for the short state line hop. Everett folded right in to his seat and passed out. Louie, on the other hand, would not have it. Hysteria erupted. I had no choice but to just keep him in my arms, shielding his eyes from the bright, artificial airplane light and trying my best to bounce and shush him back to sleep while the flight attendant prepared us for takeoff. I finally got him back to a silent slumber on my chest when the flight attendant tiptoed back to our seats. “I’m so sorry,” she began and then proceeded to tell us that we had to move seats. The new employee at the check-in counter had seated us in the row behind the emergency exit, a no-no for tiny travelers that can’t maneuver doors and levers. Commence another fifteen minutes of semi-conscious psychotic screaming, back-arching, and wrestling. Luckily, Ev transferred rows without a peep and went right back to sleep for the duration of the flight. Louie woke up in hysterics and required intense mama-manhandling about four more times before we landed. The flight was closer to 90 minutes due to thunderstorms in St. Louis, but we finally made it to Lambert at about 8:00 p.m. local time, 3:00 a.m. Italian time.
The next three days, we did the jet lag jig. Louie had the hardest time, waking up at 2:00 a.m. demanding breakfast and play on the first morning, 3:15 a.m. the second morning, and 4:00 a.m. on the third. The fourth day brought us a 5:45 wake-up with the sun, which was magical. Today is our 6th morning home and both boys are still snoozing as I drink my coffee and type away. It is 7:35… mama friends, you know what a rarity this is!! I finally feel like we made it. We are home, sweet beautiful home.
There are still boxes to be unpacked here, which is making it a little more difficult to soak in the “home” aura. Ben hit the ground running with orientation on the two days after we got back and then day one of his new job yesterday. It’s amazing how quickly the routines of real life can take hold. I am already scrambling to knock things off the to-do list: doctor appointments, finding a dentist, hairdresser, veterinarian, getting new license plates, driver’s license, etc. Ugh. Instead, I decide to just clean out the garden bed. A little rosemary, basil, and arugula in the ground and I am feeling our roots take hold.
The boys are awake…. time to wrap this up and start the day! A dear friend of mine is bringing her girls over for a play date and we will likely hit up the park down the street. Not a shabby agenda at all. I am feeling so much gratitude for the adventures we had and also so much gratitude to have a place to call home. More reflections to come on our “lessons learned” from traveling with tiny people, but for now–I’ll leave you with a couple action shots from our first few days back in MO.