On August 16, I flew to Israel with my kids, my mother-in-law, seven meticulously packed suitcases, and ten small books or activities for each child, gift wrapped, one for each hour of the flight. The flight, the move, felt like a marathon for which I trained. I slept up, packed healthy snacks. I brought the kids on a trial run to the airport, so they’d know what to expect. I arranged childcare for the whole morning of the flight, while I exercised and napped. As I wrote at the time, all this obsession and organization was a bulwark of sorts against masses of anxiety and fear about what the heck we’d gotten ourselves into.
The flight itself was a chaotic atmosphere full of screaming babies, antsy toddlers, praying observant men, families on their way to reunions and bar mitzvahs. (I loved it; our chaos just blended in). When we landed in Tel Aviv, the entire plane erupted in applause. I went off into the unknown, someplace I had never travelled.
On July 2, we flew home from Paris. We had slept in different beds for five nights straight, and taken three other flights over the previous fortnight. Our giant bags were packed, helter skelter, with the by products of months of hard travel. Clothes so dirty I want to just burn them. Damp bathing suits. Sand from Sperlonga and dirt from Umbria. All of us were deep down tired. We were also facing a double-header of medical issues: two moms down. My mother-in-law was in a hospital in Rome, having broken her arm. She faced surgery and physical therapy before she would even be allowed to fly home. And I was still running a fever from a sudden illness that hit at the most inopportune time, just as we were scheduled to travel from the countryside to Rome to Paris to New York with two exhausted children who were acting as anyone would as their world was turned upside down, again.
At the airport, the lines were long; the flight was delayed; other passengers looked askance at my kids. It wasn’t pretty, but we finally made it. “Welcome home” whispered Terence as we endured the most annoying part of any flight, the wait to disembark. “Welcome home” said the man at Immigration. I hope I smiled through my pounding headache, my feverish sweat.
Everything ended in a tumble of boarding passes, antibiotics, emergency childcare, frayed tempers and tears. I’m not sure what I expected from homecoming but it wasn’t this. But, here we are, Independence Day in America, and we are home.