In a few days, Lord willing, I will be back in Michigan for the first time since May.
I imagine this flight will be just a smidge different than when we flew out here in the Spring. Back then, it was just the three of us, which was overwhelming enough; this time, we’re flying with four — there are two kids and two adults, but somehow I feel outnumbered.
B is so young that he doesn’t need his own seat. At first, we were like, “Woot! Look at us, saving money!” — especially since it is already costing us a full month’s rent to fly home. But then we were like, “WAIT. He doesn’t have his own SEAT.” That means someone will have to hold him the entire time. For almost five hours. Unlike P, he’s not a sleep-in-your-arms sort of baby (which I’m fairly sure is my fault, and is the source of much mommy guilt, but that’s a story for another day). He is generally pretty mellow, but simultaneously wriggly and squirmy and enjoys a nice change of scenery every now and then. Unknown: how he will handle being cooped up in the same tiny space for that long.
Plus we have the other child who is very newly potty trained and sometimes planes don’t leave exactly when they’re supposed to leave and sometimes you are confined to your chair because of turbulence or a flight delay or the snack cart. And what do we DO? Put her in a Pull-Up? Just a straight up diaper and risk a regression? WHAT?
PLUS we’ll have both car seats, a stroller, Christmas gifts, luggage for everyone, and a partridge in a pear tree. How do regular human beings accomplish this? Some of my friends have even flown with two children and NO OTHER ADULT TO HELP THEM. How did you do that? Are you still sane after that nonsense? You guys are my heroes.
I fully apologize in advance to everyone else on our flight. I’m not handing out gift bags, though.
But here’s the weird part: I keep imagining that, once I step off the plane, I’m going HOME. My brain keeps assuming that I will head to long-term parking, climb into my car, drive back to the house where I lived for the last six years, and unpack. I’m flying home for Christmas, I keep telling people, but I don’t really know what that means anymore.
To me, this is something akin to phantom pain, and I’ve felt it often throughout these last seven months. I’ll wake up in the morning and go over the day’s to-do list: Feed the baby. Feed myself. Write something. Go grocery shopping. And when I think grocery shopping my mind shows me a first-person road map of Michigan. I’m driving down Grand River and I am turning left into Meijer and I am setting aside change so P can ride the penny horse. When I think P needs a coat, I instantly imagine navigating the intertwining Lee Road traffic circles en route to the Green Oak shopping center.
It happens in a flash, and is absolutely automatic — like when someone tells you Whatever you do, don’t think of a pink spotted elephant! — and so I shake my head a little to Etch-A-Sketch my brain. I don’t go to Meijer anymore. I don’t drive on Grand River anymore. Those limbs have been severed.
But for some reason, I can still feel them.
When we land in Michigan, here’s what’s going to happen instead: We will rent a car. We will stay in Al’s parents’ condo with Al’s parents, his brother, his brother’s new wife, and their two dogs. Our beds, our clothes, and our own dog will remain in California, and we will live out of our suitcases for two weeks. I will have, like, the ONE pair of boots I wore on the plane because boots are obnoxious to pack. I will drive past our old house and wonder about the new residents. We will bounce around from place to place, trying desperately to squeeze in precious moments with every important person we never get to see — but there won’t be nearly enough time.
And there’s a big list of Things I Miss Eating: Qdoba. Cracker Barrel. Jimmy John’s. Jet’s (sorry California, but your pizza SUCKS, dude). I want to go back to my mall and my Costco and…well, the cider mills are closed already. But maybe the kids will see snow. And then we will pack up and fly back…home?
California can’t be considered “home” just because it has all our stuff. But does that mean Michigan is still our home just because it has our people? Nothing about our life, day to day, is there anymore. We’re going back to the shell of something that used to exist, and I’m not entirely sure what to expect, and it scares me. For thirty-plus years — and as recently as this past May — Michigan was the only home I knew.
I don’t think I’m ready for it to feel so foreign. But my people: I cannot WAIT to see you.
You have to see P, how she has grown into her own actual person since you were with her last. I used to have to translate her words for you, but now her sentences are clear as day. She asks interesting questions and says things like These jams fit me just perfectly, Mom, and she is so in love with her brother. (She also throws the not-so-occasional temper tantrum. Be warned.)
You have to meet Baby B, who has grown out of his newborn fussiness and has the most contagious belly laugh I’ve ever heard. He doesn’t even cry when he wakes up. Just hums. He might not let you hold him at first, because it’s still kind of lonely out here and he spends most of each day with just his mama. He’s almost nineteen pounds now (true story) and already looks twice his actual age — I’m sorry you never got to see him when he was tiny.
These will be his very first moments in Michigan. I wonder if it will look familiar to P? If she will recognize any part of the area where she spent the first two and a half years of her life?
But first: the plane.