Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Homeward Bound

We knew that traveling home would make for a long day, but I don't think I realized exactly how draining it would be.

Our day began at 6am in Paris. We packed up the last of our belongings, zipped our filled-to-capacity suitcases, made sure the apartment was back in its originally pristine condition, and took out the recycling (just a few wine bottles...).

By 6:45 we were at the Vavin metro station, heading for Charles du Gord to catch the Eurostar train back to King's Cross Station in London.

We got to Charles du Gord and the signs were so damn vague that we got off track. I was not in the mood for wasting time, so I marched straight up to an information window and said "Bonjour. I need the Eurostar." The information window worker sent us up three flights of stairs to the train station. Fortunately we'd had lots of practice stair-climbing at the apartment:

This is what the stairs to a fourth-floor walk up look like after you've made the walk up.

With our quads in such good shape, we made it on the Eurostar train with plenty of time to spare and settled in for an uneventful trip across the English channel. Or under it, as it were.

We arrived in King's Cross and it felt like a homecoming. I loved Paris, but it was kind of a relief to be back where I felt like I knew where I was going. So I was all: Look how familiar this is! Look how everything is in English! Mind the gap! God save the Queen!

We followed the tunnels from King's Cross (the train station) to St. Pancras (the attached tube station) and knew we needed to hope on the Picadilly line heading for Heathrow.

We managed this with no problem, even dragging our rolly suitcases. I was so proud of myself for packing light -- it really would have been a nightmare with a huge suitcase. So we settle in on the Picadilly train, feeling like seasoned travelers and London natives. I even grabbed the free Metro newspaper with one hand as we passed the newsstand so that I could read the celebrity gossip and news headlines that the Brits combine in a free paper to hand out to people on the tube everyday. Brilliant!

So we know we're on the right line, heading in the right direction, but instead of the friendly British voice saying "This is the Picadilly line to Heathrow," she's saying "This is the Picadilly line to Knightsbridge" which is like several stops before Heathrow. So we're not sure what the deal is, but we're thinking that we'll maybe need to hop off this train and hop on another Picadilly train that is continuing to the airport.

We discuss this for a few stops and at Knightsbridge the announcement is like totally muffled and we can't figure out what we're supposed to do. Fortunately the tube is not at all crowded at this point. It's just me and David and this other American dude. So I tell David we need to get off the train and we follow the American guy off the train. He asks me if the train across the platform is going to Heathrow and I say, "I don't know, but that's where we're headed too."

I glance over my shoulder to make sure that David is behind me, and he's right there, pulling the handle out of the orange suitcase to drag it on its wheels. So I follow the other American guy as he asks a station worker which train is going to Heathrow. Sure enough, it's the train on the other side of the platform. So we only have to walk about six more feet, and I'm chattering to David about how smoothly this is actually going and how our timing for making our flight will be absolutely perfect and then I get on the tube and turn around just as the doors are sliding closed behind me.

And David is not there.

I am all by myself (with that American guy and a couple of other people) on the London tube, hurtling toward Heathrow and David is evidently still hanging out on the platform.

I blurt out "Oh my God! My husband isn't on this train!" and the three dudes all stare at me and the American says, "He ddn't make it?" and I tell myself to be cool and I say, all nonchalantly, like I lose my husband in large metropolises where neither of us have cell phones on a regular basis and we're both totally cool with it, "Well, I guess I'll see him at Heathrow!"

My nonchalance does not (I think) betray the fact that my heart is beating a million miles an hour and I'm thinking, Do I get off at the next stop? Will he be on the next train that comes through? But how will I know which car he is in? I won't have time to check and see if he's on the next train before it leaves the station! Do I circle back? But what if he's no longer there?

I finally decided that the only thing that made sense was to continue to our previously decided destination: Heathrow, Terminal 4, and hope that David showed up eventually.

Meanwhile, David had evidently ignored my conversation with the American and the station worker and had paused to look at a map as though he would be able to figure out what the train schedule was based on a freaking tube map.

And he didn't even see me get on the train.

So that train left the station and suddenly David realized he was there alone and I was no where in sight. He walked the length of the platform, down the stairs, and back up, searching for me, wondering where I possibly could have gone and (for a moment) fearing that I could have been kidnapped into sex slavery like in the movie Taken. (Am glad to know I am not the only one in this relationship who sometimes is crazy and irrational.)

Finally he decided I must have gotten on the train that had pulled out of the station, so he hopped on the next train, hoping I would be waiting for him at Heathrow.

And I was. For twelve long, agonizing minutes. The next train pulled up and I scanned all the windows trying to see him but couldn't and I didn't know what I was going to do if he didn't get off that train but I was suddenly imagining myself having to go to the American embassy and demand to know how my husband could have just disappeared in a civilized Western country.

Then I saw him walking toward me, pulling his suitcase, and I ran up to him and we had an emotional reunion that might have suggested to those around us that we hadn't seen each other in twelve years instead of twelve minutes.

I told David it was a testament to our marriage that after being together 24/7 nonstop for two weeks straight that when he was out of my sight for twelve minutes, I really really missed him. And actually we were probably separated for closer to half an hour because it was a long and lonely tube ride before I ever got to Heathrow to wait for him.

After that little incident, the rest of the trip home was exhausting but uneventful. Our Delta flight was very nice (much nicer than American Airlines, I have to say) with individual TVs in the seat in front of us so we could select movies or TV shows to watch. (I watched Sunshine Cleaners and thought it was great. David watched X-Men: Wolverine and Star Trek which he persists in calling "Star Track" much to my undying annoyance even though I am not a Trekkie.)

We landed in Atlanta and it felt pretty good to be on American soil. I immediately noticed the decibels increase -- Americans talk so much LOUDER than Europeans. But I still felt this sort of jovial sense of camaraderie with my fellow countrymen. Two hours into our layover, I realized I'd been awake for nearly 20 hours and I was trying to keep my eyes from glazing over as a very chipper and very perky seventh grade science teacher from Illinois told me every detail about her trip to Costa Rica. And honestly, she was nice, and it was interesting, but I was so tired.

I sort of slept from Atlanta to St. Louis, which I thought would be impossible at first, as the girl in front of me kept bashing Lindsay Lohan for being too skinny in her extremely loud American voice. Fortunately she turned it off after a while and I managed to doze off.

We arrived in St. Louis without incident, and found two puppy dogs who were very happy to see us!

I really missed them. I really did.

Their greeting when we got home was wonderful -- the anti-social Little Mac wanted to be petted and loved on and she ran back and forth between us, standing up on her hind legs and putting her front paws on our knees so we would pet her. Cooper joined in the mix, carrying a tug-of-war rope and repeatedly whacking us and his sister with us and he ran back and forth. Then Little Mac got sort of annoyed and started growling because Cooper was smashing into her with his big body and whipping her in the face with the knotted rope. We took the rope away after he got David in the shin with a knotted end.

But it was still a nice warm welcome.

David's g-parents house-sat and dog-sat for us while we were gone. His g-ma said the dogs were good while we were gone: "Little Mac even got to where I could say good night to her when she was in her bed and she wouldn't growl at me."

Yes, sad to say, that is good behavior for Little Mac.

She's back to her same old attitude these days, but we love her anyway.

It's nice to know they missed us too. We are so thankful that David's g-rents stayed here and took good care of them. We are so glad we had the opportunity to take this trip. We are glad we found each other at Heathrow, Terminal 4. And we are really glad to be home.

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