With two therapy sessions under my belt I was finally granted my ticket to freedom. I turned the paper over in my hands repeatedly, only half convinced it was real. I was going back to Florida. At this point, there was nothing left to say to him. He knew where I stood. I felt lighter, happier, and more determined than ever to follow my heart….head… gut… whatever.
As the plane left RAF Mildenhall, with my daughters safely tucked in my lap, I couldn’t help but recline and smile. It wasn’t the best circumstances, but it was our way home. I had $50 to my name, 6 bottles for Faith, a layover in the Azores, an overnight stay in Baltimore, a layover in Atlanta, and then a final destination of Pensacola. I could see Florida on the horizon….it was hazy, but there.
When the plane landed in the Azores, my luck began to fail me… the military plane broke down. If you’ve never been to this little runway in the middle of nowhere, there’s no airport here. There’s a landing strip, a vending machine, and a concrete slab for people to sit on. We sat there long enough for Faith to go through 3 bottles. Hailey cleaned out all of my change to buy snacks from the vending machine. Finally… 8 hours later we reboarded the plane, destination Baltimore.
Landing on American soil was completely liberating… exhilarating…. amazing… phenomenal…. wow. I was so ecstatic that I hardly blinked when the TSA agents made me pull a sleeping baby from her stroller to check if I (flying on military orders and two small children) was trafficking drugs or bombs. (It’s really no wonder the bombs sneak through customs…. Anyway….) Landing here had its difficulties. I had to spend the night here 30 minutes away from the airport. I also couldn’t leave anything at the airport. Which meant that I had to move both kids, 2 suitcases, a stroller, a car seat, a dog, and a dog kennel to a hotel….with 50 dollars. This was looking like one of those not so funny riddles about getting a fox, a duck and some other stupid animal across a river with one boat and no paddles. Yay me.
Once at the hotel three very crabby girls curled up on the bed and tried to make a plan for dinner. I looked up pizza in the phone book. I was disgusted to find only one place that delivered to our location this late and it was a Mom and Pop diner that wanted 22.50 for a pizza. Scratch the pizza idea. Looking out the window, I decided to take the girls for a walk across the street to the gas station. We ate prewrapped sandwiches and chips and replenished the formula in all of Faith’s bottles. I was running low on sanity. Sleep came easy that night because I was completely exhausted.
When dawn came I once again had to pack everything I owned onto a city bus and head back to the airport. Not having to deal with customs made things much easier than the day prior. Hailey and I shared a sausage biscuit and waited for our flight to Atlanta. It had been delayed due to storms. I was considered walking to Florida just moments before we were finally able to board. I couldn’t wait to get back to Florida. Baltimore to Atlanta was a fairly short flight. But once again sitting in Atlanta, storms were preventing us from flying to Pensacola. We had been traveling for nearly 40 hours. Faith was once again out of formula, and I had substituted every type of juice I could get my hands on, finally giving up and just giving her milk.
Landing in Pensacola was surreal. My parents were there waiting for us along with my brother and sister. I handed them the girls and disappeared into the bathroom. Sitting by myself I let all of the stress and anxiety burn through me and pour down my cheeks as hot tears. I had escaped. I was home…and I was never going back.