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the looooooong flight home

Monday, February 2, 2009

One year ago...
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I remembered to set my alarm last night. But I didn't needed it. I couldn't have slept more than a couple of hours. I was just too excited!
We were going home!
As we got dressed and ate some breakfast, I kept telling Maddie, 'Tonight we're going to be home, and you'll meet Q-ball, Punky and JacJac and see Papa again. Isn't that great?!'
She just smiled and gave me a look that said, 'Please give me more banana.'
Sigh.
I guess I'll just have to be excited enough for both of us.
No problem!
The driver showed up a little early which was just fine with us. He helped us get to the car with our bags and off we went.
As we raced through the streets I couldn't help be a little nostalgic. I mean, after all, this probably will be the last time I'll see Ukraine. I can't imagine having the money to ever come back...at least not until Maddie is older. I had met so many wonderful people here. It was a little sad to say goodbye to it all.
But it was more wonderful to know that in just 18 hours I would be home.
HOME!
We pulled up to the airport curb, the driver jumped out and helped carry our bags into the terminal. Then he pointed in the general direction of the ticket windows, said, 'good luck' and walked away.
Maddie and I were on our own.
No problem. I had been through here before. I could manage.
We walked through a throng of locals who were obviously waiting for the boarding call and went to find the Luftansa desk. When we arrived there was a line.
Great! I thought. Maddie is never going to put up with this, but ya know what? She did. She stood like a little trooper and waited and waited and waited.
Finally it was our turn.
Here is where I have a little piece of advice for all of you PAPs (pre-adoptive parents). Make sure all of your paperwork is in your carry-ons. And if you're traveling by yourself, it's even more important.
The ticket asked for my sworn statement from Meshack saying it was okay for me to take Maddie out of the country.
I said, 'You're kidding me.'
'No ma'am. I need to see the statement from your husband.'
'But he's in America. We're traveling to America. We live in Kansas. We're traveling to Kansas City. We're going HOME. He is at HOME. We are going to see HIM. I think he wants me to bring his daughter HOME!'
Oh...so you adopted her?
'Yeeess.'
Well, then I need to see the court decree.'
UGH! (I don't know why it mattered - Maddie had her passport with her name in it!)
Anyway...after a few frowns from her and some muttering underneath my breath she gave me the boarding passes for the flights all the way through to Kansas City.
I don't think I had ever seen anything so beautiful.
We made our way up the escalater and up to passport control.
There was a little hiccup at passport control. I'm not exactly sure what it was about, but they pulled Maddie and I aside to another officer. I asked what was wrong, and the nice lady said, 'oh, nothing. She just needs to see this.'
Okaaaaay.
The other woman scowled a little then signed off on something. The first woman smiled and said congratulations and we were on our way.
Security was a breeze. By the end of the day Maddie knew exactly what to do.
Then we waited for our flight.
The flight to Munich was uneventful. I thought Maddie might be a bit scared, but she actually laughed hysterically when we took off and thought nothing of the landing. She kept busy coloring and eating snacks. We made it through the first two hours without any problems.
Until we reached Munich.
We only had 40 minutes to change planes.
I don't know why they even offer this connection. For heaven's sake. It was waaaaay too short. The lady at passport control said it wouldn't be a problem...that we would make our flight.
She was right...but it was close enough to give me a heart attack. If you're flying on the 6:50 a.m. flight from Kiev to Munich and then going on to Chicago...be ready to run.
If the flight to Munich was uneventful...the one to Chicago was another story entireley.
Maddie was incredibly restless. I couldn't get her to settle down for anything, not that I could blame her, but we were sitting in the middle four seats (on the aisle) and there was no containing her. She was infatuated with the man sitting next to her, which thankfully had a granddaughter about her age, so he was used to it.
But I wasn't.
She couldn't sit still...didn't want to play with any toy for more than 10 minutes. Wasn't interested in the movies. The only thing she was interested in was her juice cup.
She drank way too much juice...which meant frequent trips to the bathroom.
And she had absolutely NO desire to take a nap.
Not ever.
I tried Benedryl...which I had experimented with during our passport wait. She showed no signs of hyperness during the trial and did take a nap that afternoon so I figured we would be alright.
Um. No.
While she wasn't hyper, she definitely wasn't tired. Not even close.
She didn't sleep more than 30 minutes of the 10 hour flight.
THIRTY MINUTES!
I about lost my mind.
We had a couple of screaming fits which required trips to the bathroom to 'correct'. Thankfully after the second one all I had to do was point in the direction of the bathroom if she got out of hand and she quickly shook her head 'no' and quieted down.
Thank goodness for small favors.
I thought we would never get to Chicago...but finally, we did.
American soil.
It was so sweet. We were finally 'home'.
Okay...not technically, but close enough.
We made our way through the 'American citizen' line in passport control, then grabbed our bags and went to the new immigrant desk.
Five minutes later my newest little citizen and I were on our way to recheck our baggage.
It was, again, easy peasy.
Before I knew it we were in Terminal One on our way to our gate for our five hour (yes, you read that right, FIVE hour wait). We tried getting on an earlier flight to Kansas City, but United Airlines in their unlimited wisdom decided to cancel that flight. So we had to wait five hours.
Five hours in a terminal with a three year old, by myself.
Yea. Tons of fun.
I tried, unsuccessfully to get her to take a nap, so we went for a walk. That was when I found the BAGEL shop!! Woohoo! I hadn't had a bagel in what felt like eons.
Maddie and I had a sausage, egg and cheese plain bagel with juice.
Mmmm-mmmm.
So good.
Then we made our way back to the gate to wait some more.
I thought about taking Maddie for a walk - but there's this whole don't leave your bags unattended thing...and my bags were way to heavy to carry all over O'Hare.
So we sat...
and we sat...
and we sat.
Finally, five hours after we touched down in Chicago it was time to leave for K.C.
The minute we got in our seats on the plane, Maddie fell asleep.
Finally.
Our one hour flight to K.C. was uneventful. I let Maddie sleep as long as I could before taking her to the bathroom. (I didn't want to interrupt the homecoming with a potty break.) Then we started our descent into K.C.
Kansas City looked amazing from the air.
I never noticed how pretty it looked before.
Finally...we were home.
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Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, feels better than walking off the plane and into the arms of your family.
I cried.
Out loud.
I didn't care.
We were finally home.
Maddie wasn't quite sure what to make of everything at first. She had a death grip on my hand and stuck pretty close to me, which is so unlike her.
The kids were estatic. Each armed with a stuffed animal, they gathered around her and tried to get a better look, all talking at the same time.

'Does she speak English?'
'Hi, Maddie. I'm your big brother.'
'Mom, can you tell her I'm glad she's home?'

It was all I could do to get a hug out of them! :)
Maddie just stood there taking it all in. Not moving.
The girl was a walking zombie.
It took her quite awhile to get comfortable enough to even look at Meshack who she had met before. But by the time we walked out of KCI she had found her new favorite spot...in her daddy's arms.
My brother, sister-in-law and three of their kids drove all the way from Colorado to welcome us home. It was so wonderful to see them...and heartwarming to know they wanted this child in our family just as much as we did.
I have the best family.
And our family is complete.
I know I mentioned when I started this blog the reason Meshack and I were on this journey was because we felt like someone was missing. There was a empty space in our family portrait and we needed to go find her.
When I looked at my husband and my children huddling together in the Kansas City airport, there was a deep sense of peace and fulfillment.
It had taken us 363 days to accomplish what had been asked of us.
But our family portrait was complete.
We had found Maddie.

3 salty messages:

Kathy and Matt February 7, 2009 at 9:56 AM  

Happy Anniversary!

I can definitely recall that highly emotional time of walking out of customs (after getting home) and into the arms of your family!

What an awesome year! What a blessing for all of you.

Annie,  February 16, 2009 at 5:39 AM  

Thanks for sharing this...it brought back memories!

I've never been able to say, though..."Our family is complete." What is the matter with me? Or, is it not complete? My motto is more along the lines of "Always room for one more."

Ashley February 28, 2009 at 8:59 PM  

I remember this so well and it was so nice "reliving" it by reading it again.

I have chills and tears in my eyes.

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