We are home. We arrived at our last stop, here in New Orleans, after 32 hours of planes and airports, a trip that could have been a lot longer if not for some lucky breaks amidst a few intense moments. We are still in an upside down discombobulated time dimension, but home.
Our smiling hero of a friend Mike Guill was there at the air terminal exit to meet us, even though it was very late ... err uh, early ... at about 2 am, and our flight had been delayed for several hours. Rather than having to struggle with finding a cab, we grabbed our bags, which arrived with us a bit battered but safely, and piled into the Guills’ familiar van. Henry had cried through most of the last flight from Houston, having reached his limit. He cried in the van at first but, even though he hears only muffled mid-range frequencies, he stopped when we turned on a local radio station, soft trumpet and piano.
As we neared our neighborhood uptown we saw little signs posted on the neutral ground along Carrolton Avenue that welcomed back the streetcars, meaning that while we were gone repairs to this last section of the Carrolton streetcar line had finally been completed. Progress. Then we turned onto good old Green Street, our street.
There were audible sighs as we pulled up in front of our house, which friends had come by regularly to look in on. One had mowed our lawn, which isn't easy since for New Orleans it's an unusually large field of tropical growth. We've a lot for which to be thankful. One of them is having so many wonderful friends. [Thank you all.]
It was a more or less quiet neighborhood night filled with the soft voices of a zillion insects. The air was familiarly hot and damp, and smelled of night-blooming jasmine. A horn sounded from a tug boat pushing a barge through the river bend. On our big front porch the light was on to greet us.
Inside we introduced Henry to the room we had prepared for him, with its new crib and the beginning of a toy collection. He smiled at the little stuffed rocking panda we’d placed in a corner, an object that each of our girls had loved at his age. He seemed slightly overwhelmed at the size of our house with its 12-foot ceilings and at its bright colors and strange objects, and at his sisters running through the house happily yelling. He doesn’t quite know yet that this is not another hotel, that he is safe in his own home and from within it all the world is laid out before him. That will take some time.
Meanwhile, we have to admit that so far the transition from two children to three has been a little bit easier than anticipated. Some of this is because we’re fortunate that Henry is such as sweet tempered little guy. Some of it is because he is most certainly a baby and not a toddler. But a lot of it has been because his oldest sister Dorothy surprised us with a huge store of hidden maturity for someone just six and a half years old. She obviously loves her little brother dearly. Plus she travels well and always has. Clara’s position in the family has changed the most, but she is okay and we’ll just have to be careful with her.
Tuesday we will take Henry to meet his primary doctor, the head of his cleft team. But right now we are just plain flat out exhausted. We’ve found it takes about one day for every time zone crossed (12) just to get ours and our children’s internal clocks back on track after something like this. At least our stomach issues have pretty much dissipated. Henry has developed a cough, although so far nothing to worry too much about. However, our sink drain is clogged and our dishwasher is busted. Time for a groggy drive to the hardware store.
Someday we will take a long vacation trip to China. Our China trips to date, this last one probably not the least, have been something altogether different, filled with so much critical uncertainty and so many details and duties that come with one chance to get right. We hardly remember now the preparation that went into this one, but all that surely couldn't have been very easy either.
Still, there is a very warm, happy calm to this kind of tired. That’s because we know our real journey with Henry can now at long last finally … begin.