Saturday, June 7, 2014

An Empty House

Today was the awful day that would never come. This morning, the iPhone on my bedside table twinkled Marimba at exactly 2:00 a.m. I switched on the light and crawled out of bed. I didn't have anything to do but wake the kids and that could wait a few minutes closer to 3 when we had to head out the door to the airport; Elise was flying to London by herself with our three small children.

I had to work today, a Saturday, and every half hour or so, I Google her flight and see how far she has come. After she had been in the air eight hours, I got butterflies in my stomach...and I'm not even the one flying, ensconed in a Boeing fuselage somewhere over the Middle East. I am aching for the report once she touches down and the fasten seat belt sign goes off. Mostly because I know she has to do it again tomorrow, from London to Phoenix.

Elise remained anxious all week, visualizing how she was going to get through the airport with three toddlers in tow. They could all very well be asleep when she lands. Then what? She can't carry three kids, three backpacks filled with sticker books and gummy bears, her two carry-ons, all by herself. She decided to bring the stroller, then decided against it. I was going to suggest a test run through the house, filling all the carry-ons with bags of sand or weights and see if she could do it, but I decided against it. I told her if anyone can do it she can. I wasn't lying.

Originally, we decided Clementine was too small to carry her own backpack and we put her toys and treats in a plastic Lego bag to stow in another carry-on or in Sam's backpack. But last night, we came to the realization that Clementine would be devastated if she didn't have her own backpack, so we filled her pink Minnie Mouse backpack and placed it in a line next to Sam and Peter's.

This morning she excitedly put it on and raced across the TV room and....fell flat on her face. Her lip puffed up and a tiny line of blood came from her nose. She was fine, hurt more in spirit than in flesh, but it was not what Elise needed as we were walking out of the door.

We drove to the airport in the dark. Peter asked me if we could stop for hot chocolate on the way to the airport. Elise would text me later and tell me that he would ask twice while they were waiting to board the plane if they had arrived yet. They weren't even on the plane yet. Elise texted, "Pray for me." I did.

I couldn't walk them to the ticket counter. Indian soldiers in khaki fatigues with machine guns barred my way. I acquiesced and hugged them hurriedly. I watched helplessly as they entered the glass-enclosed terminal. I thought, the only good thing all that glass was for was to remind me how far away I already was, how helpless. I watched them check-in. Then, watched as they had the car seats cocooned in shrink-wrap.

As they walked through security, I lost them, and stood outside the terminal next to Sundar. A goat bleated outside. I finally got the text that they had made it through and decided to drive home. Alone. In the dark. Sundar's phone alarm went off at exactly 4:15 a.m., singing, "Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! It's a beautiful day!"

Every light was on in the house when I got home. I turned them off, one by one. When I reached the boys' room, I paused, listening for Pete's quiet sleep breathing, yearning to hear Sam grind his teeth in his sleep just one more time, but no tiny bodies wriggled underneath those mosquito nets, no tiny faces pressed up against them, waiting to get out. The room was devastatingly empty. I turned off the lights.

I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn't, so I washed the dishes and made coffee. I took a shower and went to work.

A few hours later, I wrote this. Their flight lands in London in 35 minutes. 

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