There was no pre-flight anxiety this time. (Though there should have been.) Just excitement to be headed home! And impatience to get through the loooong trip and see my kids and husband again. Even when Jay and I left a few minutes late and then missed the airport exit, I still wasn't that stressed.
The flight from Salt Lake to San Francisco went smoothly. In the terminal, I looked out the window at the fog and felt a pang of longing and homesickness for Dental School life. I bought a novel, a loaf of delicious-smelling Boudin's Sour Dough, a sweatshirt...and boarded my next flight for Haneda Japan.
Thanks to staying up all night Sunday, I was ready to fall asleep. And I did. Only a few minutes into the 9.5 hour flight.
I don't know when I woke up, but I guess it had been quite a few hours. I could smell food and knew I'd missed at least one meal in my sleep. The cabin rocked a bit from turbulence, but it was nothing I hadn't felt a million times before. And then it happened.
All of the sudden, it felt like the plane was dropping from the sky. We went straight down instead of forward. There were screams as food, drinks, and flight attendants flew through the air and crashed to the floor.
Of course the fasten seat belt light came on with a 'BING' and standing passengers were ordered to sit immediately in the nearest empty seat.
The flight attendant nearest me stayed right where she was...sitting on the isle floor...holding on to the cart to keep it from rolling away.
The plane continued to rock and bounce but not as dramatically as before. Over and over in my mind flashed the crash seen from "Lost", the story of Nie Nie, and news reports about the disappearance of the Air France plane...
And then it occurred to me. I may be the only Christian on this whole plane! And I started praying to my God and hoped everyone around me was doing the same. I tried to remember if I'd read my scriptures the day before. And realized the previous day didn't matter. It was the whole life that mattered.
I prayed for the pilot, the plane, myself, my kids and my husband. And repeat. The whole prayer over and over again only louder in my head forcing it to penetrate the roof of the plane and reach the ears of God. My arms weren't folded. They were gripping the arm rests.
I had the row to myself. Across the isle, a mom kept her eyes and her hand on the baby next to her--who continued to sleep despite having been bounced fully into the air and back down.
I kept thinking; "I'm going to die alone. I'm not done with my life and I'm going to die without my husband or kids beside me." And I prayed again that they'd be okay if I did.
There were a few more big jolts. A few more screams from passengers. But the worst was behind us. The flight attendants were cleaning up messes, talking loudly with false brightness, and all passengers were back in their seats and ordered to stay there.
When the wheels finally touched down much later, half the cabin burst into applause. I smiled at the family across the isle with relief and saw it mirrored back in their faces. We'd made it. The pilot thanked us for choosing United. I finally exited the plane and placed my feet on solid ground. I had lived to take another flight. Two down, one more to go.
Tuesday night, Japan time:
When I finally did arrive home last night, my heart was filled to the brim. On the other side of the glass, while I waited for my bags, I saw Maxwell smiling his huge grin at me trying to climb straight up the window. Gabe, in a smiling Doug's arms mouthing "Mama" while pointing at me and laughing. Sammy, jumping up and down and squealing loud enough to be heard from where I stood.
I'm home. To the only family that truly matters. Yes, I love my extended family. But my heart stays wherever Doug is. And grows and swells the most when I'm with my kids.
I'm sure the horrible fear from the flight will fade from memory. And I'm sure one day I'll take another plane trip alone...without husband or kids beside me. But for now, never would be too soon.
It's good to be home.
I think I'll stay awhile.