We made it back home. Jetlag and the daunting prospect of typing again on an American keyboard has made me temporarily neglect my blog, but I owe a quick check-in and brief description of the trip that had me fretting for months. Especially since I might not have worked up the nerve to fly back home from Paris alone with le Petit if I hadn't had the encouragement from you, dear readers.
I was terribly anxious, and in my anxiety I had everything calculated, with toys organized into sacks in my neatly-packed carry-on, enough diapers and toddler snacks to mount an expedition to cross the Alps on foot, two changes of clothes for the little one, one change of clothes for me. Our brand-new car seat was strapped onto a folding luggage cart with a backpack on top; I wore a compact travel purse over my shoulder and le Petit in a sling on my hip. I had crayons, Legos, books, blocks, and an MP3-player loaded with French children's songs. I made lists, I packed and repacked, I felt like I was preparing for combat.
On the day we left, I finally found some inner calm. In twelve hours it would be over, and I was fairly certain that French, American, and international law prohibited throwing a woman and her two-year-old from a plane.
It ended up going remarkably well. Still, there were a few moments when I feared all would fall apart in front of my eyes. Three days before we left, for example, when le Petit came down with a cold and I lay awake convinced it was the swine flu and we'd be quarantined. Or in line to board the plane, when le Petit struggled out of the sling and started screaming in front of a planeful of waiting passengers each wondering who would be lucky enough to be seated in our row. Or boarding the plane, when I discovered that although I'd carefully verified that our car seat would fit in the airplane seat, I'd neglected to check if it would wheel down the aisle of the plane. I found myself stuck at the beginning of the coach section with a heavy backpack and seat I couldn't lift up and a line of impatient passengers behind me, while le Petit gleefully ran off ahead of me. Or when I arrived in Seattle and the immigration agent squinted at my passport.
"How are you doing, ma'am."
"Pretty well! I just survived a solo transatlantic flight with a toddler."
There was a long pause, then: "Your passport seems to be expired."
I caught my breath, briefly saw myself marched back onto the plane along with le Petit and only half our ration of diapers, then insisted, "It should be good until November."
He flipped again through the pages. "Oh... that's right. Welcome home, then."
As usual, the things I most worried over were not a problem. I had plenty of toys, and le Petit spent most of the trip playing with a small handful of Legos I'd had the presence of mind to grab before we left. He fell asleep without complaint and napped for almost two hours. He was even complimented on his good behavior by a couple seated behind us (although the people in front of us, whose seats I unsuccessfully tried to keep le Petit from kicking, overheard and said nothing). I even did find a way to use the bathroom en route, a detail I'd lost some sleep fretting over, believe it or not. And aside from one tantrum while boarding and another in the immigration line, le Petit kept his cool.
Everywhere people came forward with their kindness. They pulled, pushed or stowed my luggage, they smiled and engaged with le Petit, they told me I was doing just fine. And when I arrived, just as I'd hoped, my dad and stepmom were there to give us huge hugs and let us collapse into their car, take over and take care of everything.