The ride to the airport was pleasant. Nat told me a bit about the camp she attended, Antonia told funny stories from “when she was young”. Karen chimed in every now and then, and the four of us laughed together. It was to be the last time we’d be in the same car for a quite a while.
We arrive at the airport and I see a long queue next to desk F, the desk where I am to check in. I line up and wait, Nat and Antonia by my side (Karen had left to park the car). We’re standing there talking, and Nat says, “Are you sure this is our line?” So I ask the gentleman in front of me if he’s on his way to Hawaii. He confirms, but says, “The flight’s been cancelled.” I immediately think he’s playing a joke on me, but he’s serious as death. An assistant comes up to me and begins to explain that flights will be deferred to Dubai for the next day. I ask her, “Is this the flight to Hawaii?” and show her my printed confirmation ticket. She nods and confirms that I am, in fact, in the correct line. I feel my heart drop to my stomach. What shall I do? No point in complaining, the situation is out of my hands. So I decide we should call Karen and let her know the flight’s been cancelled. At that moment, I realize... where’s my purse?
I immediately think, “It must have been left in the car”, and ask a gentleman for some change to call Karen from a pay-phone (my cell phone “just so happened” to have gone ka-putt that Monday). As we’re calling her, Natalie yells, “There she is!” We rush to her and explain the situation. First thing’s first--I need my passport, which is in my purse! She rushes to check the car, while the girls and I wait in line once more. I begin to read the paper that had been handed to me and begin to get a sense that something isn’t right. The flight they have listed is not my flight! I approach an attendant and show her my documents and she says, “No, this is a flight to Melbourne. You’re in the wrong line.”
I hop back to the girls, now joined by Karen. Karen states that the purse is not in the car. My purse, with my passport, ID and money, is 25 minutes away in Artarmon.
We call Tim and Fliss, who are on their way to the airport to see me off. Tim states that he’s already at the airport, that we should find someone to pick up the purse from Artarmon. Phones are ringing, questions are flying. Finally, Bronwyn, Karen’s sister, confirms that she can pick up my bag and bring it. The confusion of this particular time is too complex and daunting to explain, but it must be known that Tim and Fliss once again blew my mind away with their selflessness.
I approach the counter and ask Those In Charge if I have any hope. I’m told that it will be fine. I begin to relax. I decide to weigh my bags to make sure they are the correct weight. I end up having to shift stuff around. After what appears to be forever, Bronwyn and Mr. Murphy (the father) pull up with my purse and jacket. I rush to the car, grab my belongings and dash, all the while crying out, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!!”
As I get to the counter, a blonde lady begins to ask Those In Charge if I’ll still be allowed on. It seems everyone’s been checked in, and now they’re admitting those on stand-by. What is the verdict?! Yes. Let her on. As the blonde lady is rushing to enter all my information, I ask, “Where should I go? Do I have time? Will I make it?” She looks at me seriously and says, “You are at gate 51. Run!”
I am darting left and right, weaving between small children and bewildered Asians. As I cross behind the security wall, I hear the voices of my Aussie family calling out, “Bye, Jo! Bye!” I half-yell, half-pant a strangled “Goodbye!” as I continue on my course. When I reach security, a man greets me with a nonchalant grin. As he’s checking my passport, I tell him that the lady at the front told me to hurry. He states, “Chill, you’re making me nervous. Just give me your thing”. “What thing?” “The thing.” “I don’t know what ‘thing’ means.” When he’s done verifying my information, he hands me my ticket and passport. I stand there, waiting for instructions. He ignores me and is about to help the next customer. I ask, “Where do I go from here?” He looks at me as if we’ve never met before and waves his hand ambiguously behind him. “That way”. I think to myself, “Oh, Australia...”
I run, run, run, thank God for the flattened escalator-walkways (I used to wonder...who could ever be in that much of a hurry?) and curse my poor eyesight, which is making it difficult to read the signs until they are just a few feet ahead of me. Lo and behold, there is gate 51!! And there is a long, beautiful queue of people who have yet to board. I’m not late!
My legs ache, I am sweaty, and I feel nauseated from the run, but I MADE IT! As I hand in my ticket and passport, I see the same blonde lady who checked me in. She smiles and congratulates me, “Good on ya! Ya made it!” I smile a big “thank you” and head down to the plane. As I walk, I begin to laugh inwardly. This is my life! The flight crew greets me and I am told I am in seat 11G. I make my way down the isle and see that my seat is right behind the club seats, with plenty of leg room, a huge screen right in front of me, and plenty of leg room. Did I mention plenty of leg room for my 9hr flight?
As I sit down, my inward giggles turn into audible laughter. I can’t help it! I’m so happy! A lady across the isle glances at the strange, smelly Dominican with fuzzy hair laughing to herself, and it makes me laugh harder. I begin to thank God for sparing me the trouble of missing the flight. For keeping me safe through the year. For the hearts of those who give and give and give without complaint. For allowing me to live with the wonderful family that will always be a part of my heart. For the friends I’ve made and for the life I have. For everything.
As I settle down, two lovely sisters, Carmen and Lisa, sit next to me. We begin to talk and I share my crazy story. We laugh. I then remember that in my rush, I failed to take air-sickness medicine. Carmen just-so-happens to have some. The plane begins to gain speed, and we soar off the ground. I look out the window, and it hits me.... it’s been a year. I am on a plane home. I made it. God brought me thus far. I have a family on the ground who sacrificed so much to make sure I made it safe, and a new family awaiting my return.
The emotion of this and the knowledge and experience of grace manifests itself in tears. The twinkling lights of the city below me begin to blur, and I feel a lump in my throat.
“Josmery, here’s a candy to help keep your ears from popping,” Lisa says. I smile.
What a year.