So, for 9 days, “home” had been a beautiful room with flowers on the windowsill, a view of my favorite little pink bike, and the most comfortable bed I think I’ve ever slept in. It has been a respite, a gift, a treasure that I will look back and think on with gratitude and laughter and an awe that no words can fill. And I’m thankful for that because it is day ten of ten. I held back tears as I looked at the flowers that Austin had given to me in the train station on day one. It has long been said that “all good things must come to an end.” I don’t know for sure about that, but I do know that these flowers seemed to state what I knew…my time there was coming to a close.
I packed and repacked my bag because on the airline that I was traveling on, there were some pretty strict regulations and I didn’t want it to go over the weight limit. (Correction, my suitcase, not me.) Austin volunteered to carry the bag that whole morning because he knew that I’d have to carry it throughout the trip and even though it was under 15 pounds, it didn’t have wheels and so it got heavy pretty quickly. I accepted that gift and enjoyed just walking seeing the sights one last time. We needed to be at the airport by 10:30, and decided to do breakfast at a nice little place on the square that I had come to feel was my little home base of sorts. This was the area where we rode bikes through the first day, caught the ferry to the archipelagos, and walked around on one of the first days there.
We ate at a cute little place that had been overflowing with partying sports fans the night before, but was now a sweet little breakfast cafe. Of course, we chose to sit outside.
We both ordered Swedish waffles with berries and cream and cafe latte. Was so incredibly good.
We ate a leisurely breakfast, for, after all, we had PLENTY of time before I had to catch my flight and we were ahead of schedule. We left and walked to the train station.
I found myself doing the kind of “Good night, Moon” talk in my head. “Good bye sail boats.” “Good-bye statue of the beautiful man”, “Good bye bikes”, “Good bye geraniums in every window and life saver at every 2 inches of water”….”Good bye tall, beautiful people”, “Good bye art and beauty at every turn…” “Good bye bikes”…the list goes on. We even saw a poster in the train station for the Nick Brandt exhibit, “Inherit the Dust” that we had seen at the Fotagrafiska museum. “Good bye Nick Brandt”.
But one thing that was not on the list was , “good bye Aus.” That was just too tough to think about. Wasn’t going to go there. Not yet. No way. (p.s. note in photo, Austin has his back pack and my bag at this point).
So, we got on the train and as we passed through the turn-stall, I saw a woman rushing to get to the train on time. I felt so sorry for her and thought, “Boy, I’m sure glad that I’m not her. Feels so good to not have to rush….” Ha. That would end up coming back to haunt me for sure! When we got on the train we even had 2 seats next to each other which was rare. We ended up at the airport a half hour ahead of schedule. We were there at 10:00 and had hoped to be there by 10:30.
But as the train came to a halt at Arlanda Airport, I looked down at my itinerary. We were just getting up and I said, “Aus, why does this say Vestra? Is it Arlanda/Vestra?” And Austin had a look on his face that I’ve rarely seen, but it was pretty terrifying. Turns out, there was good reason for terror. We were at the wrong airport. Yep. That poor woman that I had felt so sorry for and seen rushing was probably in a way better situation than yours truly. Deep breaths.
So, the next few minutes would’ve been a great comedy sketch big time. Aus feverishly searched through his iPad to see what we could do to get to the other airport on time, and then the only person that was left by the tracks was the one who had checked our tickets, so I asked him what would be best. The consensus was that a taxi was the only option. So, Austin and I quickly left the train and ran up two flights of the escalator (that looked like a mountain…) and then as we found our way to the taxis, I looked and I realized something was missing. My bag. Oops. I was like, “Austin, where’s my bag?” (I saw that look again…) So…we ran down the same two flights of the escalator (mountain), and then found that the train had left. So, you’ve got it…back up the steps with no bag. Ah well.
Austin seemed to be doing fine with the running part. Just fine. But me? I used to pride myself in being an alright runner. Ha. Funny. Really funny. That was a long, long time ago. What we don’t use, we lose. (Gotta find that back….) But my kids don’t have a stubborn streak just from their Dad. I definitely get credit there too, so I pushed through but was relieved when we finally got a taxi. The driver was really kind and said, not to worry, we’d get there in enough time even though it would take an hour and 20 minutes to get there. Yikes. But we did get there. In enough time even. But it was the most expensive cab ride ever. Ah well again. Deep breath again. New airline tickets would’ve been way more expensive for sure. Gotta keep things in perspective here. With cab rides. With lost bags. With saying good bye to ones we love.
So, we got there, and then, I had to say that dreaded “Good bye” to Aus. Relief had washed over both of us that we had gotten there on time, and so it made the see ya later so much easier. I told him to go and make sure he got his bus ticket back to Stockholm and he did, and then he waited as I went through Customs. Nope, he didn’t have to wait until I got through the gate. And I never had to when I dropped him off at the airport. But it just doesn’t seem quite okay to leave when your child is still in your sights for a bit when you won’t be seeing them for a long time. Maybe when the roles are reversed, it feels the same. Yes, I shed a few tears, but it was all gratitude. 100%.
Now back to that role reversal thing. All week, I had taken off the boss, manager, teller-of-what-to-do hat, and LOVED having a break from that. And Austin had put the hat on. With plans, with decisions, with arrangements, Austin had taken care of the big and little details. And so, come Thursday morning, I didn’t even think twice about which airport we’d need to be at. I just defaulted to Austin. It wasn’t even a thought. And that was so my fault to default to someone else. So thankful that we worked it out for sure, but it was a lesson for me to always be vigilant. Always. Even when the hats are off, I’ve gotta be aware.
The views as I left Sweden made me smile. Islands. Water. Clouds. Beautiful Sweden, these ten days were amazing.
On the flight, we flew over lots of COLD mountains.
They were beautiful. I so enjoyed the first part of the flight. I was sitting with two women who were so intelligent and entertaining. They were both black women, one from California, and one from Nigeria, who were very vocal about their thoughts on social justices and injustices and I so enjoyed getting to know them and laugh and share with these two ‘strangers’ who were so easy to connect with. ( I only make the distinction that they were women of color because we had more in common that not, and in today’s social climate, I wanted to say that. I felt so connected through laughter, conversation, and sharing of experience…ethnicity was not a barrier…) But half way through the trip, I realized that we were running way behind schedule. (Oh, and the time zone thing tripped me up again big-time. I didn’t know whether we were adding or taking away hours, so it took me a bit to realize how late we were going to be. )
So, I wish that I could say that the airport fiasco was the most stressful part of the trip. It wasn’t. AT ALL. The problem with that was that the window of time I had between my arrival time and the check in time for the gate from Boston to Charlotte was originally less than 2 hours. Had to go through Customs and all that. Well, with the flight delay, I had less than an hour to get through Customs and board my plane which would begin boarding within half an hour.
So….I asked the flight attendant if I could move up seats. I was in row 22 and I knew that waiting for all to get off would waste precious minutes. She checked to see if there was a seat up close and 4 B was open. So down the aisle I go. I then excused myself as I sat between two young twenty-something women. I said, “Excuse me. I moved up because I’m concerned about missing my connecting flight.” The girl to my right said, “Me too, mine takes off at 7:30.” I smiled and said…”Mine is at 7:15″.
She was very tall, lean, and beautiful. I felt short even sitting next to her. Her physique looked very Swedish, but she had dark features. Turns out that her mother is American and her father is Swedish. She was living in London and coming home for her brother’s wedding. Anyway, when the plane stopped, we began our little RUNNNN! through the airport.
I could’ve felt as though I had nothing to offer. She with her long legs, sneakers, and ease with running was helping me (much shorter me with flip flops and 20 some years on her) to navigate through the airport, etc. But I DID have something to offer. I really did. You see my flip flops don’t flop when I run, they CLOP. And they CLOP LOUDLY. So as we’re running past passengers, she with her quiet graceful, long-legged strides, and me? Me with my loud CLOP-CLOP-CLOP of my leather bound flip flops. Yes, I did indeed had something to offer because people were clearing the aisle as they heard me coming, probably wondering what the in the world that sound was. I think it helped us make pretty good time if I do say so myself.
We got through Customs part one and two and then ran to her gate, and then mine was further. I thanked her and told her I didn’t know if she believed in God but I do and I just feel like she was such an answer, provision, for my prayer to get to the gate in time. She smiled (gracefully of course) and we both RAN our separate ways.
It was a little after 7 and my flight was to take off at 7:15. I tried the first KIOSK I could find to check in, and ….bad news, it denied issuing a boarding pass. Too Late? I ran faster. And then…then I try to find Gate B 8 and the hall stops before 8 and starts up in the teens, so it was missing some gates which included Gate B8. What in the world? This was so not good. Not good at all. Anyway, turns out B8 was across two roads/drop offs, and as I ran through, well, I saw one car, but then…didn’t see that one, and had a near miss with a car. Really close call. Stupid move. Catching a flight isn’t worth getting hit by a car. I was probably not looking so graceful then either, mind you.
There were other details, but I’m sure you travelers have lots of stories like these and I can end by saying that as I rushed up to Gate B8, the flight attendants hadn’t even the begun boarding process. Turns out there was a pretty big delay on this one as well. The flight attendant seemed so calm and kind and smiled as my sweaty and oh-so-relieved self checked in.
As I waited, I stood by the window. This is what I saw.
The sun was beginning to go down, and the sky was just beautiful. I felt so relieved as I didn’t want to have tax my family with the cost of another airline ticket. Do you know what thought occurred to me as I saw everyone around me with their carry ons and luggage? That if my bag hadn’t been left on the train, I don’t know if I would’ve made it to the gate on time. My long-legged beautiful friend might just have had to abandon me if my short flip-flopped self had been lagging a 15 p0und bag. Even with my help of my loud flip flops sounding the alarm that we were coming through, she might just have had to ditch me. And it would’ve taken a lot longer for me to find where I needed to go.
I don’t pretend to know what God does or doesn’t do, but my faith allows me to believe that so often what I may see as a nuisance may just very well His provision, His care, His hand, for something that’s ahead of me. It amazes me, encourages me, and allows me to breathe when life gets crazy. (And life sure as a way of getting crazy…) The unseen Hand of God is often so visible… I boarded the plane and got a window seat. And here’s what I saw then…(There it is again. That visible, invisible Hand…)
“Good bye, Boston.”
And as we rose above the city, I saw the river and sail boats and small islands. And I thought about how beautiful they were there in Massachusetts,
and how beautiful they were there in Sweden.
I thought about how cool it is that no matter where we are, there are so many things that are so the same in landscape, in buildings, in people.
Had it been an easy travel day, my focus would have been how incredibly hard it was to leave Austin. It so would’ve been. But boy oh boy how the circumstances changed my urgent desire to get home. Although it was still so hard to say goodbye, the difficulty sure helped to keep things in perspective. This wasn’t home…this was just a passing through. And in order to get home, I couldn’t depend on me alone. I needed others to help me get there. It was such a blessing after such a crazy day of travel to walk down the steps at the airport and see my husband and Tanner waiting for me. Home. And maybe that’s part of the beauty of traveling…an appreciation for what’s “out there”, but a renewed, brand new appreciation for what has been there all along.
P.S. (always…) I can’t help but think of the analogy here…as a believer in Christ, am thinking I’m not Home yet. And maybe the trials, the unrest, the struggles in this life in the here and now, can give a realization that, you know, we’re not really Home yet. As huge of a gift that Life is, could it be that we were created for more? The Bible says we are and we were. I pray that we’d always be aware of the Unseen Hand reminding us that we were created for so much more, and that we will be thankful for all of the amazing reminders that He has in our paths, right here, right now. Thank you, Austin. No words for how blessed I am. And that’s saying a lot (for your quite wordy mom). Love you (and all of you kids) way more than words can say. Keep doing your thing knowing that God goes before you and behind and is right there in the middle of it all. ❤
Oh, and a little addendum. I got a call from Austin a few weeks after I returned home. He said, “Mom, there’s a UNESCO conference in NY I want to go to, and I’m thinking about coming HOME to see everyone for about a week…what do you think?” So guess who came home with my crazy looking bag over his shoulder and very few clothes because he brought mine? Yep…this kid.(He had called the train station and picked up my bag the day after I left. Huge relief!) We had the most amazing week with family. Life is short. So thankful for time spent with people we love!