3am and my three year old has just called out needing a drink. He sips from the cup that he could have reached without my help, and falls back to sleep within minutes. I, on the other hand, lie in bed thinking on the day ahead. The day that is filled with travel dependent on negative covid tests. Covid tests that we took two days ago, but have apparently not yet been received by the labs and so are very much not offering us the travel pass that we need.
Nineteen months after our last trip ‘home’, we are heading to England and anticipation has been building. Building but ticking over on amber as we jump through the numerous hoops and meet all the requirements that allow us to set foot on British soil.
Ticking over, waiting, and holding back on allowing hearts to leap at the thought of seeing parents, siblings, friends and all the rest.
Holding back until we know we can get on that flight.
The actual morning – the one after the sun rises and breakfast is a viable possibility – is filled with packing, mediating energetic boys niggling each other and pressing refresh on the test site every half hour. A precious friend swings by for a cuppa, goodbyes and to empathise with the stress. I hit refresh as she leaves the house.
12pm and no results. Our flight is at 5pm, we need to be at the airport by 3pm, and the rapid, ‘pay through your nose’ tests are looking like the only possibility. 12.30pm and we’re on our way to a local Urgent Care. The extortionate sum is paid before any swabs are stuck up noses, and we wait in the van until they’re ready to do the tests that allow us to fly. Thankfully van seats morph into an obstacle course (making us wonder whether we’ll be in Urgent Care for a small boy’s broken leg) and we’re soon inside for that uncomfortable moment when the silent medical assistant pokes us in the nose. Naturally, the boys are wailing before the poking begins and most definitely when it’s happening.
Praise the Lord for negative results, and we’re en route to the airport via one last Chick-Fil-A. Forms checked, security gates cleared and we’re on. Rufus bouncing with excitement at the thought of being on an aeroplane and being able to watch a screen for longer than in normal life. Billy saying he’s excited, but mainly copying his brother and every now and then saying he’s tired and a little bit scared.
But all is well. A peaceful flight so far. Some spare seats enabling legs and little bodies to be stretched. And I’m finally full of let-loose anticipation and excitement at the fact that we will be with family within hours.
Anticipation and expectation, and a slightly strange feeling of waving goodbye to this life we’ve made in Illinois. Granted, it’s only for six weeks (maybe longer if Covid restrictions don’t change) but it’s strange sensation to be trans-Atlantic having not left America for a long time. The stranger thing is that no-one has been able to visit, and so our home, our life, our existence over there is filtered through FaceTime, Instagram and snippets gathered through text messages. No-one has been to the park we go to every day opposite our house, or sat in our backyard while the grill is fired up, or met our church family, or hung out in our everyday existence.
I’m thankful for technology that means there has been a window into our Glen Ellyn existence, and for the power of language to describe. I’m thankful that our God is not limited by geography or restrictions, and so our lives are seen and know and loved irrespective of whether others can see it or experience it. I’m thankful for much time spent connecting with family and friends when sitting in different countries, sipping cups of tea in contrasting time zones.
Thankful, and wondering what it will be like to be back in that familiar, and yet distant, home. Praying, and trusting God with the days and weeks that are to come. Loving that as we fly from one continent to the other, He is still our loving, never-forsaking Father.
Addendum: See above for glorious, familiar Dorset in the sunshine and with the parents, who it feels like I saw yesterday as well as knowing full well it has been much longer! Grateful for boys jumping straight in, grandparents up for joining them in the energetic mix and time to ‘be’ amidst it all. (Words beforehand written in the middle of the night on the plane!)