It’s been a month since we set out for Europe. Choosing to go off the grid for four weeks was one of the best decisions we made going into this trip. It expanded our time and our capacity to appreciate where we were and what we did. We didn’t spend time reading Facebook comments or trying to log in to WIFI in cafes. We saw more of the world through our own eyes instead of through a screen. Perhaps best of all, the whole adventure was like our big secret. Choosing not to share it made it more intimate and forced us into each other’s company. For three weeks in Europe it was just the two of us, and we grew together as I imagine only a properly honeymooning couple would.
That’s what we called it: “The honeymoon we never had.” Marrying in the middle of college in 2010, we took four nights at a local bed & breakfast in the middle of snowy Minnesota and called it our honeymoon, coming home to mountains of work, missed classes, and the mess of moving in together. That was almost five years ago now. In five years we’ve had two kids, finished three degrees, moved across the country, and the list goes ever on. So this trip was our own celebration: Mike’s graduate degree is complete, our kids are old enough to live without us temporarily, and we are on the verge of our 5th anniversary. Besides, we’ve been feeling a need to do some hard thinking about the last five years and the next five, about the things that make us tick and whether or not they’re good.
Now we’re home and settling into the beginning of the next five, but I am eager to live those weeks again and, in doing so, preserve their memory for years to come and share the fun with all those friends who didn’t get to Like it on Facebook while it was happening. It was too good to keep to ourselves forever.
Eventually I will recount the first days of our journey – the roadtrip that took us from home to Miami. But tonight I am tired and happy just to mark August 1 on September 1.
Friday, August 1 was a pretty normal day in that we got up at 4:00 a.m. Or was it 3:30? Our attempt to outsmart jet-lag was weeks in the making and thoroughly successful. We never had the slightest problem those first few days in Europe. We finished a lot of little tasks, spent lots of time drinking in Jacob & Meredith, and put the finishing touches on our journey – overlooking only one significant detail, but that story will come tomorrow. At lunch time we took the kids out to Chick-Fil-A for a little date and at bedtime we tucked them in slowly with lots of snuggles and stories. Jacob cried as we walked out of the room: “I want to come with you and say goodbye at the airport!” He’d remembered our initial plan and we were sad he was so disappointed. We left him comforted with promises of airplane pictures and Gramma snuggles and set off about 8:00 p.m. for the Miami airport.
It was really hard to leave the kids. The only way I can describe it is that it took an enormous amount of mental and emotional self discipline. Choosing to get lost in the wonder of the adventure instead of obsessing over how they were. Trusting them to my parent’s care and to God’s kindness. The reality of it hit me hard two days before leaving and I was ready to call the whole thing off. It wasn’t until we were on the road toward the airport that I started to feel enthusiastic again about this trip we’d so passionately anticipated for almost a year. But those two days were the worst. We missed them every day but we never felt the urge to jump on the next flight home. Only a few times were we really sad in their absence. Mostly we just enjoyed talking about them and sneaking peeks at their pictures.
Our flight left over an hour late, so we sat at our gate a long time, playing cards and enjoying the ease we felt, having launched this epic journey and no longer needing to do any more preparation. True vacation was a new experience for both of us and we sank into the luxury, pretty pleased with ourselves.
My only disappointment in our travels was upon waking up from a few hours of sleep to sense the sunrise out my closed window. I opened it and prepared to bask in it, still meticulously taking steps to align my body clock with European time. Within seconds a flight attendant came and emphatically directed me to close the window. Apparently the consensus on the flight was to honor United States time, and there was barely a stir on the plane before 7:00 a.m. EST. Tedious, since I was wide awake, ready to start the day Paris-style.
Throughout our trip I kept a handwritten journal, documenting our adventure pretty exhaustively and often recording in it the sort of vignettes that I might have posted to Facebook. That journal will be the backbone of this one, and I close with it now:
Saturday, an hour till Paris, in flight:
Leaving the kids was hard. We laughed to hear them talking and snuggling with Gramma on a recording she sent after we left. Jacob burst into tears when we tucked him in – wanting to go with us to say goodbye at the airport. He recovered so calmly & peacefully. He’s brave. Merry’s been more unglued than I’ve ever seen her the last two afternoons after her nap. I think she’s homesick and nervous, but I can never really know. I’m glad for Jacob’s presence for her.
Last night at Miami airport we were amused by a TSA agent, seeing me from the back and calling me “sir.” I guess my hear is really short. We were horrified to be sitting at the gate with several massive brown cockroaches! Our flight left over 90 minutes late. We’ve just woken after dozing about six hours. Paris soon!!