Our little house by the sea is a long way from Paris. Gone are the Sunday morning markets, the crusty breads and succulent cheeses. In their place we’ve rediscovered the joys of string cheese, macaroni and cheese and milk in a whole gallon jug (as opposed to the little liter boxes). There are white puffy clouds racing across the sky, chased by spring winds and the tide is filling the bay outside my bedroom window. We’re in southern Massachusetts now, renting a cottage on an inlet of Buzzard’s Bay, surrounded by sandy beaches, salt marshes and cranberry bogs. It is hard to believe that this time last week I was waking sleepy children, checking and double checking our bags and beginning the long trek between continents.
It couldn’t have gone any better, really. Our good friend Thomas helped Tony ferry bikes out to the airport Holiday Inn. A quiet dinner was had as a farewell to France. Bikes, boxes and bags were checked without incident. The flights were on time. The conveyor belts in Boston regurgitated it all: 3 bike boxes and eight checked bags. Never a doubt. Perfect. Almost.
I woke up at five with a migraine. “Surely this can’t be happening, not today!” I groaned and rolled over, hoping by denial of the obvious I could will it away. No such luck. By the time we got to Ireland I thought I was going to be sick… so much for denial… time for drugs. It’s funny to say “We had lunch in Ireland,” but we did… some nasty, slimy, filmy vegetable soup in which no vegetable was strictly identifiable. I can’t say that it helped with the nausea. Our bags were checked through to Boston… so it was with a certain surprise that we noticed one of our yellow bags on the conveyor in Dublin. It wasn’t exactly circling, like bags are meant to… it was more like a big yellow rubber duck stuck over the drain of the bathtub, keeping the water from draining out and causing a pile up of the other toys. The handle was stuck between the conveyor belts. It took all of Tony’s strength, with both feet wedged on the edges of the track to free the bag… and it’s mangled tag.
We stood for a while, wondering what ELSE might turn up in Dublin that was meant for Boston, before we turned in the bag to the apologies of the steward and assurances that it would be on the plane before we were. The rest of the flight we just assumed that our big yellow bag would be the ONLY thing to arrive in Boston… the bikes were probably on the way to South Africa by now.
There is nothing for the soul of a weary traveler like the sight of home. Home, for us, has always been more about the people than the place, so it was with great joy and much screaming that the children discovered the biggest surprise of the day: thirty or so of our closest friends, bearing signs and flags and cups of hot tea for a jet lagged Mama, crowding the “arrivals” terminal. There is no way to express the sweetness of that many hugs, a few tears, a brand new baby and twenty kids under 13 hopping up and down and practically monkey piling each other with a year’s worth of love. Did I mention the tea? Robin brought me tea.
Our first three hours on American soil found us soaking up the “best” of American culture: Chuck E. Cheese. Maybe not my first choice on a good day, without a migraine… but absolutely PERFECT for six jet lagged kids and their closest friends. Unparalleled for the ability to let them get sugared up, caffeined up and wired up while the parents visited in relative peace. I’m convinced it’s what helped them stay up late enough to weather the jet lag that first night.
To quote the Mastercard commercial: Bikes: $2400. Tents: $1200. Trains: $3000. Ferries: $1500. The Colosseum: $100. Camel Rides: $50. A trip up the Eiffel Tower: $60 A year on the road as a family: $35,000. Dear friends and the homecoming of a lifetime: Priceless.
p.s. Special thanks to Bryan Powers of Hindsight Video for the pictures