Carl's last day as a British Government Civil Servant was Friday the 2nd and he returned home that evening with an adorable card which was filled to the brim with well-wishes from his work colleagues. Between sporadic last-minute packing and a yummy chicken dinner made by Mama Lynne, we all plunked down one last time as a family to watch our favorite Friday night shows. Between commercial breaks we took Carl's parents on one last virtual tour of the the parent-confusing-technologically-challenging-machine that is our long distance life line. Also known as Google Chat. And as Garry discovered what fun it was to make silly faces during his first ever webcam conference we smiled and marveled over how wonderful technology truly is.
That evening the primping continued as Lynne, Garry, Nana and Carl's Uncle Martin had booked a small family goodbye dinner at our favorite Formby pub, The Railway.
As I finished applying my second coat of mascara I heard Garry thump down the stairs and out the front door as he made his way to collect Martin and Nana. The plan was that after Garry dropped them off at our reserved table, he'd return to the house and Carl, Lynne, and I would join him in a taxi to the pub. As Garry's not a big 'picture person' I took the extra downtime to bribe the hubby to take a few snap shots before his Dad returned. To my surprise he complied without too much grumbling. These are a few of those Kodak moments.
Within 20 minutes Garry was thumping back up the stairs and we all impatiently waited, tummy's grumbling, for the taxi to arrive and bring us to dinner. Thankfully Bonfire Night fireworks kept us preoccupied and before we knew it were were crammed like sardines into the small cab. We arrived at The Railway in time for sprinkling raindrops to begin falling from the heavens (you ladies out there who have naturally curly hair understand how traumatic this can be after spending 20 minutes straightening ones hair)...and so, as most women would do, I ran as fast as I could into the pub in order to avoid sprouting a Macy Gray sized fro. Upon entering I was in the process of assessing the raindrop-damage when Mama Lynne grabbed my arm and excitedly said: 'quick Mand, shut your eyes.' It was at that moment I found the butterflies in my stomach and I could feel the warm tears welling up behind my eyeballs. As we all walked around the corner of the bar salty tears started rolling down my cheeks as one by one I spotted the smiling faces of mine and Carl's nearest and dearest friends. In the previous weeks Lynne had utilized that same crafty-sneaky bone in her body that she'd relied on for mine and Carl's engagement night, and contacted our closes friends to join us for a surprise Bon Voyage party.
The overwhelming sense of emotion, surprise, love, gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness that swept over my body that evening was amazing. As we enjoyed dinner, dessert, drinks and laughs together I couldn't help but smile so big my cheeks hurt. We were truly spoiled rotten in that room where we were surrounded by friends, family, memories, stories, smiles, tears, overflowing hearts and delicious cake (entirely homemade by Mama Lynne, and shaped as an Air Mail Postal Envelope with our new VT address). It was genuinely the most wonderful Bon Voyage party. Carl and I could not have asked for anything better. In fact, I'm crying now as I think about how truly blessed we are. Thank you so much, to all of you who took the time to make our goodbye so wonderful. We love you all from the bottom of our hearts.
Sunday morning was our last day in England and it began with countless over sized glasses of water, some toast and two extra strength ibuprofen's. Between the vodka and diet coke, lack of sleep, and stress headache following me around like Eeyores soggy cloud, I knew I didn't have a snowballs chance in hell without some meds. For the entirety of Sunday was dedicated to packing and my OCD was causing me to twitch as I looked around at this...
But finally, thankfully, after a little over 10 straight hours of weighing, stressing, weighing, sorting, weighing, cramming, weighing, hefting, weighing (are you seeing the freakin' trend here?) swearing and crying, we were finally packed. All 7 suitcases, 2 laptop bags, 1 guitar case and 4 carry-on's. And although I was able to look down the suitcase lined hallway towards the front door and feel a slight sense of accomplishment - finally everything was packed away - I couldn't rid the aching sadness from my body.
As midnight crept closer goodnight's were said to Lynne and Garry and alarms were set for 2:45am, but still I sat wide awake in bed aimlessly perusing Facebook. It was during my perusing that it finally dawned on me that Carl was still in the bathroom, well over an hour after he'd gone in. And so I crept, slowly and balancing only on top toes, across the squeaky floor to the bathroom door where I gently tapped. It was then, after a few short seconds, that Carl slowly opened the door, eyes red, face wet and nose running. And my heart broke. It broke because I knew exactly how he was feeling. It broke because I knew he was worried about how his mother would handle the move. It broke because I felt guilty. Like the Wicked Witch of the West, some green-skin warty bitch ordering my ugly monkeys to kidnap and take him from his home and family. And so I brought him back into our room where I hugged him as tight as I could, told him I knew how he was feeling and promised I'd always be there to support and comfort him. The hour and a half of sleep we got that night was spent cuddling. We were in this thing together and through the tears we both knew it would all be worth it in the end.
By 4am Monday morning all 7 suitcases, 2 laptop bags, 1 guitar case, 4 carry-on's and 1 small Starbucks gingerbread teddy bear named Philippe were loaded in a large rented van alongside Mama Lynne, Papa Garry, Carl and I. Chugging along on the M6 Motorway headed to Manchester Airport and our 8am flight to Dublin.
As we unloaded our abundance of bags from the van and began to wheel them into the airport on not 1, but 2 separate carts, the stress of airline baggage weight, time and safety restrictions all collapsed on my shoulders and it took every ounce of restraint not to scream and sprint to the Aer Lingus counter. Because the cheapest option was for Carl and I to pay for our bags to be checked on our flight (vs the astronomical price of shipping) it was imperative that we were the first to check in (Aer Lingus would have severely limited our extra bags had others checked-in before us requiring additional bags as well). Thankfully all of my anxiety and worrying was in vain as our impeccable punctuality meant we were there 10 minutes before even the Aer Lingus employees even arrived. Ha! And although every single one of our carefully weighed suitcases received one of those giant neon 'HEAVY' tags, all 8 of them made it safely onto the motorized ramp and later into the belly of our plane.
Once the bags were gone, and with them the stress, the dreaded awkward silence and looming sadness of the family airport goodbye made itself present. And as we counted down the minutes over cups of tea and bacon butty's, 6:30 inevitably arrived and with it mine and Carl's turn to venture through the gaping doorway into the security checkpoints. Giant tight hugs which lasted for longer than normal and tearful I love yous were accompanied with see-you-laters and "we'll call you as soon as we land!" As we turned the corner and dug in our bags for our passports and boarding passes, we turned one last time to wave goodbye to Mama Lynne and Papa Garry. And while I felt pings of sadness, like I was leaving a little bit of my heart in England, I knew Carl must have been feeling giant tugs, like he was leaving golf ball sized clumps of flesh. And so I held his hand tight, kissed him a little longer and told him I loved him as we unloaded the entire contents of our 4 carry-ons into plastic gray trays, pulled our shoes back on, and hurried toward Gate 11B.
Both of our Aer Lingus flights, from Manchester to Dublin & Dublin to Boston, were smooth, beautifully sunshiny and comfortable. The majority of my Boston flight was spent watching chick-flicks and Sex And The City, while Carl was massively impressed with their interactive game selection and spaghetti with meatballs lunch. The last 45 minutes of our Boston flight felt like 3 hours as I impatiently watched the blinking virtual airplane travel over the coast of Nova Scotia, Maine, New Hampshire and finally Massachusetts. And as our plane did that awful barrel-turn that always makes me feel like I'm going to puke my guts up, I suddenly felt the warm tears trickle down my cheek as I could see the tiny bright speckles of light from Boston's Logan International Airport runway in the distance. And as the plane quietly thumped onto the cold runway pavement I turned to Carl and excitedly croaked out "Baby, I'm home! We're home!"
All at once I was hit with an indescribable mix of emotions that were years in the making. Finally, my husband was with me. We were now together, forever, staring with bright eyes into our future.
The next 12 hours were a blur of extreme exhaustion, excitement, love, happiness, overwhelming appreciation and the most significant sense of relief. In the space of 24 hours Carl and I finished our beautiful chapter in England and started a new one in Vermont.
Now, after nearly 5 years away, I am finally HOME in the beautiful, comforting, wonderful landscape of Vermont, and more importantly alongside me is my husband. Now, for the first time in our 10 year relationship, Carl and I can enjoy each others company without the burden of visas or airports or suitcases. We don't ever have to say goodbye to each other again, no more tears or I miss you baby's or aching hearts. We're finally at that place we've always fought so hard to be. That place we've always wished for. We're settled. Together. Forever. Two puzzle pieces super glued together. And here I am, standing tall, proud and appreciative as I count my blessings and I breathe a deep long sigh of relief.