I used to really love goodbyes. I used to specialize in the tearful parting, the passionate attempt to summon up a friendship and all it meant to me. I had three goodbye celebrations before departing for my year abroad in college, resulting in some friends toasting me thus: “Hilary, we really really love you but please leave.”
There wasn’t time for any toasts leaving Jerusalem. Or I should say, I chose to not leave time for them. I went to Lebanon last week, meeting up with my in-laws who were visiting Beirut. It felt like a ridiculous, selfish thing to do — abandoning Terence with the tasks of packing and cleaning and making tuna salad for the end-of-year kindergarten party — but also perfectly consistent with the values of our year. What is that great Edna St. Vincent Millay quote? “There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take / No matter where it’s going.” Exactly. Squeezing in one more trip made more sense to me than appropriate goodbyes. Somehow it gave me the excuse I needed not to even try to sum up our year, or tell people what they had meant to me.
I came home from Beirut via Amman and the Allenby Bridge at 2 p.m. Thursday. I had planned to be “packed and done” before departure, but that’s a moving target. The next 35 hours were a whirlwind and I got, I think, a total of six hours of sleep over two nights.
Yesterday was a marathon travel day. We woke up at 3 a.m., moved out of our apartment, got on the Nesher sherut at 4, and were at the airport at 5. It takes forever to get through Ben Gurion security (“what are the names of your friends in Jordan?”). By 7:45, waiting for our flight to Paris, Hannah and Margaret were ready for some yoga to stay calm. Maybe I should have done some too.
We had to fly Tel Aviv – Paris – Rome which makes no sense but was the only way we could re-route our tickets to include this trip on the way home. We also hauled all our belongings with us and stored two giant bags at Charles de Gaulle airport during our 4.5-hour layover. It was worth it to save thousands of dollars, but at times yesterday I wasn’t so sure. We were Those Travelers, the ones with the teetering pile of luggage that takes forever to check in. (I wanted to scream: We travel light! This is our stuff from an entire year!) The ones you pray to God don’t occupy seats anywhere near yours. The girls were reasonable on the actual flights but there were many meltdowns along the way for all four of us. By 11:30 p.m. when we finally arrived to this gorgeous farmhouse in Umbria, we were barely talking to each other.
So begins this weird in-between time, when we are not in Israel/Palestine but not home either. I’m getting inklings of what re-entry will feel like. To the man at Charles de Gaulle airport who looked with horror at Margaret and sniffed before dramatically moving two seats away from us: thanks a lot. You make me miss Israel/Palestine and its anything-goes parenting philosophy. After months of being dazed and confused in the Israeli dairy aisle, the little glass pots of organic French yogurt in the airport cafeteria felt hilarious.
To be honest, I’m pretty overwhelmed and exhausted for reasons that include but go beyond our 23-hour travel odyssey. I don’t know what it means to say goodbye to a year like the one we have had.