I blinked, and then our idyllic week at sea was over. Over! Finished, done, and there was nothing left to do but stuff all of our laundry back into our suitcases, let the kids have ice cream for breakfast (oh yes we did), and then… go sit up on one of the higher decks and wait for our disembarkation number to be called.
My brother and stepbrother and Otto had all spent the previous night as we gathered for drinks networking their laptops and swapping photos. And Otto and I had choked down some sickly-sweet “drink of the day”s so as to get the souvenir cups they came in for the kids. (We, um, may have neglected to buy any souvenirs while on our trip, on account of it just never occurred to us. But who doesn’t want a cup shaped like the Carnival ships’ signature smokestack fin thing? Hooray!)
But yesterday we sat there and the kids played and we all chatted and Monkey ended up covered in ketchup (don’t ask) and then, suddenly, it was time to go. So there were hugs and kisses and thank yous and we were off to customs.
I don’t know if you recall the extended song and dance we went through to get everyone’s passports, but in addition to that, there was a whole bunch of notarized paperwork we had to get from the kids’ dad before the trip. He had to sign something saying he was aware that we were getting them passports. And then he had to do this special letter acknowledging that we were taking them out of the country. (My favorite part: He filled it out saying that if anything were to happen to me abroad, they should immediately contact him regarding any decision that needed to be made for the kids. But if for some reason he was unavailable, he would “grant permission” to Otto to make decisions regarding their care. I thought that was big of him, and also highly logical on account of it would make so much more sense to wait for him to fly down to Belize, or whatever, rather than let Otto do, oh, I don’t know, what Otto does every day in the course of caring for the kids already.)
Anyway, we had all of this extra paperwork. Just in case someone were to become concerned that we were kidnapping the children, or whatever. (And that’s just silly. I mean, damn, if we’re going to start kidnapping children, we’re totally going to go for Gerber and Banana, who are smaller, cuter, and WAY better behaved than the kids we already have.)
When we went through customs, we needed exactly none of it. The nice customs agent asked the kids if they had a good trip, and Monkey replied, “I LIKE ICE CREAM!” and that was apparently all the evidence she needed that we’re a happy family of U.S. citizens. And away we went.
The taxi ride to the airport was uneventful. It was when we arrived at the airport that things started to get interesting.
For one thing, we’d been advised that the ship offloading can take a while, so we should schedule our flights later in the day. We’d done that; the earliest any of us was leaving was 2:30. But we got to the airport before 11, so that meant we’d have a lot of time to kill. And we were meeting up with the kids’ dad, so I called him, but… his phone was off. Hmmmm.
It turned out that he’d flown in that morning (I had mistakenly thought he’d come down the night before), and he called me once they landed. So we schlepped the kids and their stuff over to his baggage claim, and eventually he showed up and we hugged and kissed the kids and said goodbye. They headed off to their flight, and Otto and I headed off to ours.
What should’ve happened next was a leisurely lunch, a return home, and a joyful reunion with the dog (mah BAYBEE). That was the plan, originally. But then a little while before we left, a work opportunity came up for me, and so yesterday Otto and I walked and walked and walked and walked until we found some suitable food (Miami, your airport is gigantic, but your food choices kind of suck), we had lunch together, we sat slumped in a couple of chairs for a while, talking about how tired we were, and then we kissed each other goodbye and headed to separate gates.
Otto went home to Licorice. I was headed to Philadelphia, which is 1) not home and 2) notably devoid of any wagging dogs who love me very much.
I walked and walked and walked and walked and finally found my gate, which was swarmed with people even though I was plenty early. Hrm. A bit of investigation revealed that an earlier flight was boarding. Okay, then. I sat down and went back to reading my book. After a while I looked up and realized that… the gate was practically deserted. And the board still had the info from the flight that had just left. Even though we were supposed to board in 10 minutes. Hmmmmm.
Well, funny thing. Turns out we’d had a gate change AND a delay, not that anyone had bothered to, you know, announce it or anything. So I walked and walked and walked and walked to the NEW gate, where the plane was now delayed 90 minutes. FANTASTIC.
But, you know, eventually we boarded and took off and all was well. Right until we got to Philadelphia… at which point we were “in a holding pattern due to weather” for about another hour. I thought the guy next to me was going to pop an artery; he was Not Pleased. But me, well, I had plenty to read and no whining children and the flight attendant had given me the whole can of ginger ale, so I just kind of rolled with it.
Eventually we landed. I found my hotel shuttle and made my way to the hotel, whereupon I discovered I was just too tired to go looking for food. Hardly necessary, anyway, when you figure that all I did last week was eat. I came up to my room, had a granola bar, and collapsed.
I’m here for two days with a suitcase full of laundry and one clean outfit remaining. And Philadelphia, I’m sure you’re a very nice city of brotherly love and all of that, but your water tastes disgusting. I’m just sayin’. I am looking forward to actual conference stuff tomorrow not because of the learning and the networking (um, I mean, that TOO), but because of the endless flow of palatable ice water that usually accompanies these things.
Tomorrow night I’ll head back to my husband and my dog and FINALLY, I’ll be home. It feels like I’ve been gone forever.
Also—for the record—I am pretty sure my hotel room isn’t gently rocking, but apparently my brain is still at sea. Maybe today I can work on my landlegs.