We awoke early so we could partake of the breakfast buffet and be on the shuttle to the airport with plenty of time to go through all the rigmarole at the airport. It turned out there was no rush; the departing flights are not even assigned a gate until 45 minutes until departure. So we waited patiently to find out where to go after clearing security. Once on the plane, another delay, something was off with the cabin crew’s head count, so we waited again. We had the two seats at the back of the plane where it narrows to the tail and we found this spot offered a bit more legroom than our center seats on the way in. Eventhough, the rear of the aircraft seemed a bit more unstable, and the fishtailing of the plane made the turbulence a bit more intense, we were lucky to have a bit more wiggle room and two seats by the window all to ourselves. Naturally there were three kiddos in front of us all between the ages of 2-5 but overall they were well behaved and when the two year old wailed at the uncomfortable changes in altitude, her mom dutifully rocked her, giving her a bottle to help equalize her ears and giving her some liquid Benadryl to help her go back to sleep. We watch 4 movies, slept for very short intervals of 20 minutes or less and ate what we could of the airplane food, one bonus was an ice cream treat toward the middle of the flight.
When the pilot finally announced our descent into LA, I glimpsed the cluster of buildings I always associate with downtown and surprisingly got emotional about returning home. I thought to myself, “My brother lives there,” right in the heart of the city and I thought about the other people I love who I would be coming home to and a feeling of joy stirred in my heart. I thought about the people I would not be coming home to (my dad who passed away a few years ago, and my grandma who had passed only a few weeks ago) and though a ripple of melancholy agitated my pool of joy, I knew I would find fond memories of them here at home.
LAX provided more waiting. A long line for customs where you input your information into a kiosk, then another line to speak with a human who checked your passport, then an exiting line where dogs sniffed at you and your luggage. Finally we emerged into the area where roped off people could wait for their loved ones to materialize from the belly of the airport. In this sea of faces, I thought I saw our Claremont Italian teacher but she vanished before I had a chance to confirm, swallowed up by the pulsing crowd. (I got an e-mail from her later in the week, it was her, and her son had been on our flight, small world!)
We exited the airport to find Greg’s mom waiting for us behind a thick line of travelers with luggage-laden carts. She had a treat for us in the back seat; my mom had come with her to welcome us home. It was a lovely surprise and so reassuring to see that my mom was doing okay with the loss of grandma. Though completely exhausted from our travels, we chatted all the way home.
Back home we enjoyed some snacks my mom had stocked the fridge with to fill our empty bellies after picking at our airplane food and we quickly settled into comfortable rest back in our own bed.