Get up at dawn. Okay, 7am, but it feels like dawn when the sun doesn’t rise until 9am. Thanks, northern Europe!
Take shower, drink coffee, don’t eat. Put up birds nest hair, dress in black sweater and jeans. Baby in bunting, grown-ups in coats. Luggage in lift (easier than lugging down stairs), walk past Christmas tree for last time.
Roll up to Metro. Booth is empty but we have billets. Train to Opera, walk to RoissyBus. Italians talk I try to sleep but the bus goes bump bump bump past boulangerie traiteur patisserie banque magasin arrondissement boucherie and all the French words I knew in eighth grade but forgot in ninth.
Arrive aeroport but we’re in the wrong terminal. Baby gets changed hustle hustle hustle from terminal 2E to 2A where the line to check in for AA41 non-stop CDG-ORD is, mercifully, clipping along. Pre-liminary security screening, check bags (kiosk won’t scan my passport but accepts my record locator, CVFAIT, which is practically en Francais), security.
I queue up in front of an older American and his (quite quite quite) younger Chinese girl. The girl makes a fuss about, dunno, something while another American lady and I smirk. “Relationship drama – hilarious.” French immigration stamps me through to security lady, who frisks me in the nicest way before releasing me to the splendor of duty free. I buy mom a tiny Longchamp coin purse, dad the tackiest Paris baseball cap, and we sit and wait and wonder if the extra TSA security screening will delay our departure. I wait and sit, checking my iPhone while the lady next to me reads The Economist and wears too much perfurme.
Eventually, we start boarding. Some of us get tiny yellow stickers which means we win more screening! A cold secondary runway where our shoes are examined, our bags are squeezed, we are frisked. Most of us who get this special treatment are brown or yellow or black. Or so it seems at first. In any case, with that and de-icing (told you it was cold) our flight’s departure is delayed by two hours. Still, though, with the tailwind, we only end up arriving an hour late.
At some point during my time in Paris, I made my peace with flying and its bumps. Naturally, the flight was uneventful. Though I’m still wondering why Shorts was screened not once but twice. The other movie was Monsters vs. Aliens which had me howling just as much as when I saw it for the first time last year. Khloe sat next to me, and I was glad to see her laughing just as hard. Again, she and Jeff and the baby were able to sleep a bit. I set a timer on my phone, counting down the hours to the end of the flight, the end of the trip, and the return home. I fidgeted with earbuds, lip balm. I resisted going to the bathroom but finally managed to pee. I didn’t wear my shoes, though, and stepped in what I hoped was spilled water when I stepped out into the aisle afterwards.
(The baby crawled on the tray tables. In fact, the baby started crawling in earnest, using her legs and her arms, when we were in Paris. She arrived on the Continent with two teeth and was leaving with four. She could pull herself up on her knees and almost get to standing. Coco is growing up.)
Arriving in Chicago, we were instructed to wait while a uniformed CPD police officer, some airport security personnel, and plainclothes officers escorted a man off the plane. Walking off ourselves, we could see the man calmly consulting with the officers, peering at a list in one of their hands.
Immigration, baggage claim, and then there we were in terminal 5. Khloe and Jeff weren’t about to get on the blue line with the baby and all their bags, so we hugged goodbye and I got on the blue line myself. I sat in the last car while a jolly family, bearing polka dot suitcases, clamored on and smiled at one and all. Dad caught the eye of a young woman, saying hello and asking where she was coming from. “Michigan. So not very far.” She smiled and tucked away her book. The train shrugged forward, so we all rearranged our bags again, so they wouldn’t topple over with the movement. Dad allowed as how they’d just returned from Colorado, a timeshare and skiing. I sat up, briefly alert and awake (hilarious considering I fell asleep at 7pm that night). Dad looks at me. “So! Where are you coming from?”