I'm sitting at the window of my stepmother's 23rd floor apartment in downtown Seattle with a very American view at my feet. There are skyscrapers, the hum of Interstate 5, and cranes rising above half-finished concrete buildings. It feels like home and always will, but the familiarity is that of a comfy, well-worn sweater found lost in the back of the closet that when you put it on doesn't quite fit like it used to.
I find myself staring at the small, detailed license plates on cars or noticing the toilet is in the same room as the shower. Some sentences come more naturally to me in French than in English, and I am having a terrible time typing on an American keyboard. Small reminders that I am a little less at home here each time I return.
Or maybe it's the jet lag catching up with me already.
The flight with a toddler was as long and as painful as I'd been warned, but we had quite a bit of luck, too: our immediate neighbor was a very kind and understanding woman who assured us that she appreciated the distraction we provided, since she hated to fly. The row in front of us was occupied by a family with a two-year-old, so they understood when I wasn't always able to keep le Petit from kicking the back of the seat. And no one made any comments when we brought out the musical toys in desperation.
Two hours into the ten-hour flight, when the main course of my lunch ended up on my lap, I started to loudly wonder just what had possessed us to sign up for such a mad pilgrimage. But when le Petit finally fell asleep in the Ergo after I paced and danced around the aisle, and I eased back into my seat to enjoy his warm, sleeping weight on my chest, I started to come around. The hours counted down oh-so-slowly, but at the end of the flight, my anxiety had mostly lifted.
As we circled in for a landing, I chatted with the woman across the aisle as my husband entertained le Petit. All of sudden, le Petit burst into laughter and none of us were entirely sure why. It probably was a nearby passenger who started making funny faces, or perhaps just le Petit sensing our suddenly jovial mood. It certainly couldn't have been his imminent landing on terra firma in his mother's country of birth. But it made me so happy that his first moments back home were of unrestrained joy.