I've become fairly convinced that international flights shave a few days off your life. You wake up early in one place, and 30 hours later you're half way around the world. It's a miracle, really. But when you walk to the baggage claim at your final destination, it feels like you just put your body through a tumble cycle and ate junk food for 30 days.
Ada was great. I can't complain, except for the fat lip she gave me on our first flight. I swiped Jordan Ferney's idea and wrapped some dollar store toys in crepe paper to serve as calculated distractions. Worked like a charm. When Ada would start getting fussy (i.e. the boredom that preceded the overtired tears) I'd grab a brightly packaged present out of my bag. The newness is all she needed. Something besides the same faces, the same aisles, the same snacks and the same two seats that the three of us packed ourselves into for hours on end.
After a short trip over the Alps we spent 4 hours in the coolest airport on the planet (how many airports have baby care lounges?) before boarding our flight to Chicago. As soon as every one was buckled in (and I was rejoicing at the empty seat to my right—what luck!) they announced that the plane we were on had some issues and we were going to get off, wait for a new one, and board again in two hours. As soon as the microphone when dead, flight attendants handing cups of ice cream flooded the aisles. Well played, KLM.
As I ate my ice cream (and the cup they gave to Ada) all I could think was: Two hours. As just under the amount of time we have between landing in Chicago and boarding for Salt Lake. Two hours. As in, we were going to miss our connection.
My only consolation was the empty seat.
When we reboarded, two extremely happy travelers filled the empty seats. They would have missed their flight. (At least someone's prayer was answered). My heart sunk a little. But ever-optimistic Michael kept assuring me, "We'll make it!"
When we landed in Chicago we got another announcement: the gate wasn't free so we had to wait for a plane to move before disembarking.
That is when I lost all hope of getting home in time to meet my family at Cafe Rio and reunite over pork salads and salsa.
We arrived in Salt Lake just before 9 pm. As I looked out at the Rockies—the mountains that mean home; that are jagged and rough but act like big, welcoming arms— I could hardly believe that at 3:30 that same morning (though nearly 30 hours prior) I was walking out of my shoebox apartment on Via Solferino, climbing in a dark taxi, and trying to convince Ada that it wasn't time for jabber, but time for more sleep. We waved good by to our city from the air.
This morning I woke up in my parent's old bedroom. Everything is so familiar it almost feels like the past year never happened. It's a strange paradox that I think we experience every time we make a major shift in life: that it seems at once far distant and very close.