When I was in high school homecoming was celebrated with a big football game and a formal dance — dates, corsages, fancy dinner somewhere on the waterfront, the “prom pose” pictures, the whole shabam. I went to every one of my homecoming dances and a couple at other schools. But I never had a homecoming like today.
Our day started at 3:15 am yesterday. We caught ourselves a three-hour power nap after tuning down from half a week’s work. A real nice friend offered to drop us at the airport despite the god-forsaken hour of the morning in which everyone on the streets or at Burger King is high and hungry. For the first time ever in my whole life none of our suitcases were overweight — a sure sign we are maturing travellers. I actually smiled at the kids who were in our line to check-in — a sign I am a maturing adult since I typically scowl at under-15s in airports as they are almost always the root cause for an unpleasant flight.
We tucked our things nicely into queue with the Qantas lady, who wasn’t as customer-friendly as I like to think she could’ve been but, who managed to snag us a window seat for all of our flights ahead.
And indeed, it was going to be a day ahead.
We’ve been trying to get my mom and dad down here to visit Never Never Land ever since we moved. We thought a little coercing and “helping” to book their flights was the ticket so five months ago we orbitz-ed and kayak-ed our way through the over-priced wonderland of plane fare finding. I was, of course, convinced that today was the day we had to book these tickets because I was confident ‘the man’ would increase the price tomorrow. So I Facetime-d mom and negotiated until we booked.
Four months ago dad hurt his back
getting out of a chair or something terribly old-man-ish, I mean skiing in the Swiss Alps. Three and half months ago he was in a minor car accident (that was, incidentally, not his fault). Two months ago, we cancelled mom and dad’s tickets here. There was no way dad could sit on planes for 16 hours if he couldn’t even sleep more than three hours in a bed (mind you, our bed… the best effing King-size mattress in the world that we passed on to them when we moved. Apparently, a mattress is over the weight limit for any airline).
By now it had been nearly nine months since the last time we saw family and had been home. It was about six months too long and would likely be another six months before they could come down. In a surprisingly calm fit of rationale after this whole ordeal, I said something like, “It would be cool if we could go home for Christmas…. surprise everyone.”
And that was my ‘inception’ moment. Because that thought grew until I was obsessed with it, which took all of 48-hours. So we did something totes cray cray and bought tickets to go home… to surprise everyone.
I spent the next several weeks telling mom stories of made-up plans to spend Christmas with friends at the beach. It was a plan that involved more friends than we actually have in New Zealand, sleeping bags *and* a beach house, 10 days, spaghetti, someone’s family, seafood, a roasted pig… and whatever else I threw in the fibbing pudding.
Earlier this week I told mom I was going to have a wildly busy Wednesday. Laura and I were going to crash another team’s Christmas party, yada yada. But really… we were already on our way to Melbourne. Then to Los Angeles. Then finally to Seattle, welcomed so kindly by 35 degrees and rain.
My aunt picked us up at the airport as the triangle tip of our conspiracy to pull off such a Christmas surprise (i.e. she was the only family member who knew we were coming home). Home is not home without Walmart, so we made a stop there and I felt like I was in America’s heaven. I soaked it up by buying deodorant and bobby pins like they might expire next week.
Then we were “meeting” mom at home. My aunt and three cousins (who were shocked when they realised they were at the airport to pick us up!) went inside first to chit chat with mom. Then we rang the doorbell.
Mom screamed. And she cried. And we hugged. And I cried. And I could do nothing but cry and hug her, because I hadn’t realised until that exact moment just how much I’ve missed my bestest friend. She couldn’t believe it. I could barely believe it. We were home.
One by one we surprised the rest of family — replaying one of the best experiences I’ve ever had over and again. My sister came over to “have dinner with cousins and mom” to find us sitting on the couch. She screamed. And I was speechless again so I just cried and hugged her. And then my brother-in-law-to-be came over nearly passing over seeing us, as if it were perfectly normal for us to be sitting in the living room.
Dad took forever though. Who puts anti-freeze in the truck when your daughter and son-in-law are inside waiting for you!? Then, in he came, there we sat. More surprise. More crying, a lot of “no ways”. I could get no words out but “we’re here. I’m so glad to see you.”
Next, my brother and sister-in-laws’ house. The entire entourage — mom, dad, us, sissy and boy, cousins and aunt — drove down the street to barge in on the evening. Not weird at all, right? Just eight people coming over to say hi. Whatevs. Then we knocked and walked in. My sister-in-law jumped up and down with tears pouring immediately. My brother couldn’t see us around everyone else right away, but when he did we ran over and picked up Colin. Yes, picked him up! My three-year-old nephew recognised us right away and ran up wrapping his arms around my neck to hug me. Pure joy. I could have that moment alone forever.
Now because I like to celebrate all happy occasions with pasta or chocolate and since Mexican was everyone’s last night’s dinner… we ate at the Oliver Garden. And it was soooo, soo good. Grandma came, too, who nearly fell over when she saw us. We spent the rest of the night dining and laughing and thanking God we were all together.
It’s been a surreal day, every moment of it worth the last 26 hours of travel, 10 months of anticipation, and two anxious dreams about being home in the last week. Amazing. Just amazing. Today’s homecoming was celebrated just the way I imagined it, and a million times more wonderful.
It’s been a long year. I’ve cried a lot. Sometimes of stress, or exhaustion, frustration and sadness. But today all my crying was because I was just so happy and I’ve missed them so much. Family, for me, makes all things worthwhile in the world.
Dad looked at us all night and kept saying that this was his best Christmas in 53 years, his whole life. Best Christmas in 24 years for me. For the next three weeks, I plan to bask in every moment.
We’re here… home sweet home.