Booking a flight to Birmingham, England, at short notice on the weekend the March Break starts, took hours on Wednesday evening.
There were no direct flights, and other choices included flying with multiple airlines or one, with one or two stops and from various cities in either the United States or Europe. All of them had startlingly long layovers.
I laboriously droned through the options, and narrowed my choice to flying with one airline (United,) which I have never flown before; with one stop (in Newark, New Jersey,) and having "only" an 11 hour layover in Newark, before catching my connecting flight to Birmingham. All told--by the time I get to Birmingham, about a 24 hour journey, from 2.30 a.m. on Friday morning, to the same time on Saturday morning (which will be 7.30 a.m. in England.)
I decided that God must be giving me another one of those gifts in strange wrapping paper and I couldn't wait to unwrap it. The unwrapping has already begun!
I had wanted Paul to just drop me outside the departures at midnight so that he, at least, could get some of the night to sleep, but instead he snoozed on the couch and insisted on taking me just after 2.00 (the flight to Newark left at around 6.00 am.) And he parked the car and made sure I got to the right place to check in before kissing me goodbye; to the fascination of an adorable pair of 4 year old twin girls, who stared up at us, wide eyed, so that their mother admonished them not to stare at people.
One had a mass of shoulder length dark curls and the other had straight, lighter brown hair, but both had similar features, with wide brown eyes and slightly upturned noses and they both wore pink pants, white tops, with pink hoodies. An older brother helped their mom watch over them and keep them safe in the crowds of travelers quickly filling the airport.
Harried airline employees herded the hordes of humans, patiently but firmly, through those man made rabbit warrens designed to keep a line in order. They managed to keep the mass confusion from the tipping point.
After 3 hours of weaving through lineups for getting boarding passes; for checking in; and for U.S. Customs, I was on the plane at 6.00 a.m. and promptly fell asleep for most of the hour and a half flight to Newark. I had no real idea of what to expect of Liberty Airport, (Newark,) but I did have a secret regret that I wasn't flying through my beloved Schiphol, Amsterdam--but more on what I found in my next post.
I woke up about 15 minutes before landing. Seated next to me was a man about our son Peter's age. His three sons and wife were seated in the rows in front. Maybe because his seatmate was no longer comatose, he engaged me in animated conversation, peppering me with questions: Where was I from? Where was I going? How long had I been in Canada? What did I do for a living? etc!
I managed to fire a few back at my gregarious neighbour and found that he was from a small town in Ontario and owned three dental practices; was Irish-Italian, and usually gets home at 4.00 a.m. on Thursday mornings because that is "boy's night out," therefore he was quite sleep deprived. But he seemed to have lots of energy for an engaging conversation.
As I told him about my reason for going to England, I said that Mum was Dutch. He asked a strange question, "Was she from the Catholic or Reformed part of Holland?"
I gave a brief synopsis of her faith background, steering away from the issue of denomination, and told him how our shared faith had formed a deep bond that cannot be broken by death. I asked him about himself. He looked...guilty and hesitant.
"I'm a 'poor' Catholic," he said, "I guess if we were talking soccer, they would be my team."
"But it's not about 'religion,' or denominations," I said, "faith is about a relationship."
He nodded as though he understood, but I will never know if he did, or why he pressed the topic. The plane had taxied to a halt. He got up as suddenly and energetically as he had started the conversation and strode down the aisle of the plane. Their connecting flight to Aruba had been changed to one with very little time between flights and he said that his wife was nervous about that.
Just before he left, his wife leaned over the seat to ask if she could put something in the roomy bag he was carrying. Warm brown, curls were swept back into a barette and chocolate brown eyes smiled from an olive toned face. Around her neck she wore a silver chain, and from it hung an intricate Jerusalem cross.