Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Trip Back

Due to popular demand (OK, Alma's mom): the anticlimactic tale of our trip back home.

To be honest, I was dreading the trip back as early as the first full day in England, when I slept until 9:30 and woke up still tired. Thanks, jet lag! Still, I worried if it was hard to wake up at 9:30, how in the world was I going to wake up in time to catch the 7am local train, the first of several modes of transportation that would get us back to Chicago?

Fortunately, waking up was easy, and in fact Z. (possibly excited about the trip back) was up and cooperative by 6am or so, along with my sister (who is a light sleeper in the best of circumstances). I packed things up and got showered while my sister helped feed Z., then by 6:40 we were out the door, walking the five minutes to the local train station to ride to the Leeds station, where we would transfer trains to Manchester, where we would take off for Chicago. Z. did great on both the short first train ride (10 minutes) and the later, longer one as well (closer to 90 minutes). She was a trooper at the airport, too, where I followed the confusing signs to one wrong terminal after the next until we got to where we were supposed to be.

My sister once again had given us some money to spend on food, but nothing for sale looked like it would appeal to Z., and we didn't have much time, anyway, before we boarded. For this flight, it would be daylight the entire way, which makes napping a little tougher, if not totally inadvisable. Worse, my plan to load the iPod with bootleg movies didn't work out, and what I thought would be an in-flight "Kung Fu Panda" turned out to be the not very Z.-friendly and totally lame live-action "Four Christmases" (the switch from March to April programming was to blame for the bait and switch).

We got a couple of meals served to us, including a pizza that was every bit the stereotypically inedible airline food, but Z. mostly grazed on bread and other snacks. She did well on the 7 1/2 hour flight (of which I was constantly aware would only be half the length of our future flight to Australia; let the anxiety start stewing anew), but was pretty tired by the time we got to Chicago and through customs. I rewarded her with a rare trip to McDonald's (also the only choice by baggage claim) for a happy meal, which she patiently waiting for while we took a shuttle train to the El and an hour-long trip back to Oak Park.

On the shuttle a man commented to me, "You can't imagine how good that smells!" I think McDonald's smells like barf, so I asked him where he and his cross-adorned travel companions were returning from. "Liberia," he said. "How's Liberia?" I asked. "Getting better," he said, but his wife shook her head and basically said it had a long way to go. No duh. Still, it made me think how fortunate I was that I have family in England and Australia, and not Africa.

On the long, boring, train ride home, Z. barely stayed awake, but sat still and didn't complain as we wound our way home on good ol' uncomfortable, dirty, smelly, bathroom-free Chicago public transportation. At one point while Z. dozed a woman walked over and commented how impressed she was at the father/daughter bond we had. I thanked her, and for the rest of the trip home Z. asked me who the woman was and what she was talking about.

It was cold at home, too, which is how it's been ever since, which is nothing new this time a year, and A. didn't seem to care/notice that I was back. But over the next few days everyone kept commenting how Z. seemed so much older and wiser after the trip, and I kept telling people how well behaved she was on the entire trip.


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