When I looked up, exhausted with an aching back, and saw the sign saying, “Welcome to the United States of America”, I wanted to fall to the floor and weep. I didn’t, because, well, because I don’t really think people would have understood that reaction, but my heart wanted to. I didn’t realize just how proud I am to be an American. And how much I love this country. It just fits me.
On the flip side of this love was the feeling of being completely invaded. For the past year we have lived in this bubble where the people around us can see us but not understand anything we were saying. I like that bubble, and it started to leak in Japan, then totally burst in Colorado. I had this knowledge that anything I said could be overheard, so I didn’t want to speak. I wasn’t saying anything that couldn’t be overheard, but it just felt wrong.
The first stop in the Denver airport (after all the boring stops like customs and luggage) was Panda Express. I know what you are thinking. Don’t judge until you have had real Chinese food. It is NOT the same. It doesn’t even deserve to be in the same category of food. I will say, we rocked the chopsticks unlike ever before at a Panda. Ha! Next stop, Dunkin Donuts. I thought I loved Dunkin Donuts, but I think maybe they should have to revamp their recipe or something. Or make them fresh everyday. And coming from someone who hasn’t had a real donut in over a year, they should take note. Seriously. I will say that at this point we were beyond exhausted. Cam and I didn’t sleep any on the long flight, and the girls only got 2-3 hours. Perhaps our tastebuds quit after Panda…
When we got on the plane to fly to Dallas, we were split up and not near one another at all. Ellie and I lucked out and got the first row after first class, so we had more leg room. And to make it even better, the third seat was empty. We were both asleep before the plane left the tarmac. Oops. It was a great hour and 27 minute nap though! Cam said they all fell asleep too. Hello jet lag!
Walking through the gate in Dallas and seeing Cam’s brother and my sister in law standing there waiting was surreal. I didn’t know what to do! I felt myself pause for a millisecond then rush to hug Shawna and she felt so good! Then I turned and saw my nephews and I felt like my heart would burst. I truly love these people we get to call family. I wanted to hold their hands and never let go, but again, I don’t really think they would have understood my reaction. Ha! I got the first hug from Cam’s dad although I should’ve let Cam have it. In a daze, we loaded up in two cars and headed straight for ChickFila. I have never ordered myself a sandwich without cutting the pickles, but the thought that I could ask them to cut them didn’t even cross my mind. I don’t know how to say pickle, after all. (This has been the mindset for the past year when ordering food) Luckily, Shawna was there to ask the proper questions so my sandwich would be perfect. And it was. So were the fries and sweet tea.
Finally we made it to Cam’s parents house where we got to see his mama. A sight for sore eyes I tell you…even if she wasn’t feeling top notch. The company was great, the shower was hot and steamy and the bed was screaming my name. I wish I could say that I fell asleep and sleep soundly for hours and hours, but my body was torn between China and Texas time, and it just wanted to drink coffee and stare at the sky.
We woke to steaming coffee and a trip to the grocery store (Cam’s dad was making us a big breakfast, which is his specialty, and needed eggs.) I jumped at the chance to go to a grocery store that doesn’t have smelly things and unidentifiable food, so off we went. Cam was the brave one that wielded the wheel after a year of no driving. Cars seem to have gotten a little fancier since we’ve been gone.
When I walked into the grocery store, a grin instantly appeared on my face. An ear splitting grin. It couldn’t get any bigger. My heart started pounding, and I was beyond excited. Cam looked over at me and I saw a big grin on his face too, so I said, “You’re excited too!!!!” He said he was just laughing at me…but I was trying to tamper down the excitement. Truly. I was! But the aisle of 50 types of bread, and the smell that actually smelled good, and the flowers and sales. Oh. My heart was happy. I headed straight for the cereal aisle and just stood and looked. It was borderline overwhelming, and I didn’t buy anything, but it was fabulous all the same. As we were leaving, Cam’s dad handed us a bunch of money and said buy whatever you feel like buying. Whoa. I ended up getting taquitos, velveeta, chips, AVOCADOS, salsa, corn dogs, strawberries, and meltable chocolate. Do you see the Mexican theme going? We’ve missed it.
Seeing our family was totally worth the 29 hours of travel and loss of sleep. It was even worth the cracked rib I just knew came from the exuberant hugs of my nephews…