I kept a daily journal of our China trip last year. I was good about writing during the first week, but after that my entries abruptly tapered off. Once we got Ren, we quickly entered into newborn delirium, even though he was already 19 months old. At that point, I had to trust that my mind would hold onto the moments I was meant to remember.
I thought I’d share the entry from Day One. I remember writing it in an airplane as we flew back to the west coast en route to Beijing. It was the second of ten flights we took round trip. It was such a strange feeling flying back to California that day, as we had just left our home there to move to Virginia. It felt as though we were back-tracking and getting nowhere, stuck in an endless round-a-bout of planes and automobiles, like an episode of The Twilight Zone. This journal entry could probably use some editing, but I left it as is, an authentic draft of delirious travel thoughts.
Day 1 — Thursday, June 28th, 2012
We pulled out of our driveway at 7:15am this morning–or should I say yesterday morning? It’s past midnight EST right now, so technically today is already tomorrow, but I’ve entered into that traveling-haze where the hours blur together and it hurts your head to try and figure what time it is. All I know is that I’m tired.
We have been traveling all day but we are still in the continental US. We are flying over the western states right now, but it’s hard to say where because it’s pitch black outside. I think we are due to land at SFO in about an hour and a half.
The first stretch of today’s journey involved driving the girls down to my parents’ house in NC. We woke the girls up this morning and loaded them right in the car, gave them juice boxes and protein bars for breakfast. It was strange pulling out of our driveway, leaving our new home that doesn’t feel quite like home yet. We just moved cross-country from California, and after a week and a half of unpacking boxes and moving furniture, it is already time to let go of “home” again.
[leaving the Atlantic coast. Portsmouth, VA.]
The road trip to my parents’ place is four and a half hours, door to door, with one stop. We got there around lunch time and my parents had food waiting for us. We were ravenous! Chris and I stayed for about 40 minutes–just enough time to eat, get the girls somewhat situated, and say goodbye.
[driving through the Virginia countryside.]
That was the hardest part of the day–saying goodbye to the girls. I felt like I was betraying them. My dad wanted to pray for us all so we huddled together in the middle of their family room, held hands, bowed our heads. I immediately felt the sting in the back of my throat, the warning that tears were soon to follow. Both of my parents prayed over us and the gravity of what was before us hit me with each word.
I was eyeing the girls during the prayer. Tess looked around, not quite sure what to make of it all. She was studying our faces for some indication. Lucy stood next to me, lost somewhere in toddler-la-la-land. My heart ached for them because I know I won’t see them for seventeen days and I know they can’t wrap their minds around why we’ve left them–at least, I know Lucy can’t. Tess and I have been talking about her brother in China for awhile now and she seems to be tracking pretty well. I know my parents will do great and the girls will enjoy their time, but I also know that this is a long time to be away and this journey is going to impact everyone–everyone is going to feel it–everyone already does.
We all walked out to the car together and I scooped the girls up and squeezed them tightly, whispered in their ears how much I loved them. Tess burrowed her nose into my neck and didn’t want to let go. Lucy said, “I love you, Mommy.” She knew we were getting ready to leave her and she wasn’t going to let me put her down. Her legs tightened around my hips. Finally, my dad asked her if she wanted to come inside for a popsicle and she happily obliged.
Chris and I drove away, suddenly alone in the car. We drove past roadside stands of plump peaches, ears of corn as big as bowling pins stacked high in pyramids on wooden stands. They had tables full of watermelon and tomatoes and wooden signs advertising homemade ice cream–tastes of summer in the South. The dense green foliage along the North Carolina country roads stood in such sharp contrast to the golden rolling hills of northern California that we’d grown so accustomed to. I found myself struggling to adjust to the jolting differences between the east and west coast (not to mention the new continent we are now heading towards). I was quiet in the car as we drove by it all. Everything was starting to feel real.
We drove for about two hours until we finally reached the Greensboro airport, where we started our journey back to the west coast. We had a two hour flight to Chicago, then a two hour layover which turned into much longer thanks to delays caused by thunderstorms. Day one of travel has been full. We’ve been going non-stop in cars, terminals, and airplanes for about 18 hours and I’m ready to get off of this plane. Tomorrow is going to be just as intense.
The flight attendants are about the bring the beverage cart by for the second time. It seems strange to order coffee so late at night, but I think I’m going to need some. When we land at SFO, it will be about 11pm PST, but it will be 2am for us. Then we will need to rent a car and drive to Modesto–about an hour and a half drive. We will stay in a hotel in Modesto and then fly from there BACK to SFO tomorrow morning, and then onto Beijing a few hours later. Flying out of Modesto verses SFO saved us about $600, and Chris was trying to be as thrifty as possible when booking our airfare. It is insanity to me, but every $ counts at this point.
We are quickly approaching the end of our funds. We are almost tapped out. We have about $8,000 cash strapped to our bodies in money belts. As we stashed the wads of money around our abdomens this morning, it felt as though we were conducting an illegal transaction. We are close to reaching the limit on our credit card. There have been so many costs along the way but most of them have come right at the end. We weren’t expecting that. Still, God is providing in ways we didn’t imagine and I know He will continue to do so. And, like Anne Morrow Lindberg says, purposeful giving has a way of filling one up…the more you give the more you have to give…like milk in the breast. I don’t know that life always feels that way, but I’m hoping this proves to be true.
That’s it for today. I will write again tomorrow, most likely on the flight to Beijing, high in the sky over the vast, blue, Pacific Ocean.
[back to the Pacific. San Francisco, CA.]