Our firstborn, a son, is a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps. He has been stationed at an air base for the past two years in Iwakuni, Japan and Sunday, we got to swoop him into our open arms for hugs and pats on the back, kisses on his cheek, and a lot of ” Welcome Homes” ! It was a dream come true.
I awoke early on Sunday, at 5:30 a.m., knowing I wanted to be dressed and ready to leave the house by 6:45 for our drive to Florissant, MO, our former community. My husband and I and our 5 kids still at home all had come to an agreement that we would leave Rolla early on March 3rd, attend the 9:00 service at our former church, First Christian of Florissant, greet friends and visit for a bit, then head to Lambert-St. Louis airport to greet our son, as his plane would be arriving from Chicago at 11:20 a.m.
With herculean efforts, all 5 of our kids were roused from their sleep at 6:15 and since they knew this was an important day to their father and I, they got up and ate breakfast and got dressed without being too slow, too sleepy, nor too argumentative. In fact, we were all in a good humor as we boarded our Econoline van, and hit Interstate 44 for the almost 2 hour drive East. DS’s in their hands, blankets to wrap themselves in for another a.m. nap if they wanted one, coffee in our travel mugs, we were good to go.
During the church service, my husband kept checking our son’s flight with an online service called Flight Tracker. One has to know the airline and flight’s assigned number and Flight Tracker does the rest, calculating and letting observers know if a flight is on time, the estimated time of arrival, and where the plane is exactly the moment one is checking for this information. When our son first left for his base in Japan, we had all of those flight numbers, and could check his progress. We did the same when he was able to spend December of 2011 with us and it was fun to track his flights. This time, on leaving Japan, he flew out on a military plane and we had no flight information to track. We had a time of when he was leaving, so getting out our globe, and figuring in the time differences, we calculated what our time in Missouri would be when he arrived in Seattle. He did arrive at the time we estimated; he left Japan on the morning of March 2nd and due to crossing the international dateline from East to West, he gained a day back, arriving in Seattle on the afternoon of March 2nd. He had to wait for a flight out that night for Chicago, and then a morning flight from Chicago to St. Louis. My husband’s checking showed that last flight from Chicago was actually going to arrive at 11:05 so we hustled off to the airport after the 9:00 service ended.
My husband dropped us off at the departure/arrival area of Terminal 1. He told us to get to the gate where our son would enter from, that he would go and park the van and meet us inside. I am not good at figuring how to get to gates, etc. at airports as I haven’t done a lot of flying, but through my thinking outloud and my kids thinking outloud, we found the right direction to take and as we got close to the gate, we could see our son, our big brother, our Marine, our hero, and we all ran to grab him. I was the first to reach him and after a big hug and kiss and welcome home I turned him over to his siblings. Lots of smiles, and laughs, and he kept exclaiming how tall they had all gotten! At almost 5’7″, it is weird to me to be almost the shortest person in our family. The baby is now 10 and he is the only one shorter than me and I know his day to pass me will come in about two years, as that has seemed to be the pattern for my children. I quickly grabbed my cell phone and took a picture of the kids, oldest down to the youngest. I felt a bit bittersweet as child #2 couldn’t get away from her college to be with us, but phone calls to her later in the day helped ease that feeling. I then texted my husband to tell him that we had our son and to meet us at the baggage claim area and he did. I marveled in the moment that our son and his Dad hugged; that 8lb. 90z. baby was now a grown, 6’3″ 21 year old. Where did all of those years go?
Now that he is here with us for a bit, he has some items to buy; a nice, used car is top on the list. Some extra naps have occurred to help him get over his jet lag. He agreed to give our smelly dog a bath, who by the way, greeted our son in typical beagle-hound baying fashion! His requests for home cooking will be honored: Tacos, BBQ Ribs, Fettucine Alfredo and Toasted Ravioli, to name his top requests. We also said we have to take him to Slice of Pie and his twin sisters want him to try a fruit and tapioca drink at Boba Bliss.
I woke up so easily on Sunday. I felt so glad, my heart felt so full. Grateful that our son’s deployment to Japan was over. Grateful that after his last base assignment is done in 2014 that he has his college pick planned and what he wants to study. Grateful that we can talk about life and the curves that come at one, and how to deal with all of those curves. Grateful for the catching him up on American pop culture that he missed out on while away. He does miss Japan he has said, and I am grateful that he had that time to live in another country and experience how another people group lives. Grateful that he is once again under our roof. Grateful to God for blessing us with him, entrusting him to our care. Semper fi, son. Signing off as one very proud Mom.