07 January 2010

Until the danger's passed

A fitful return to Great Britain was marked by hardship and several small miracles. Travelling with children is never safe, especially when you are as prone to feeling guilty as I am. The children, they cannot be quieted and try as you might and bribe as you might, there are times when nothing can be done. Walking up and down the aisles only works when there are not fat, angry, middle-aged flight attendants glaring at you and holding you responsible for the endless misery their lives must be filled with. Look, I wanted to say, there is nothing I can do. She needs to be moving around now — I'll take my chances with the turbulence.

Getting off the plane, we were euphoric, but as you might suspect, when that asshole tried to blow up the plane last week, one of the things he did manage to destroy was quick passage through customs and immigration in any country. Britain's immigration is usually very reasonable, but yesterday it was not, and as we queued and saw that the queue was not moving and there were several thousand people in front of us, I tried to look for alternatives. One alternative was to go through the EU/ UK queue which seemed reasonable as we are residents and that one kid we have was born here, for god's sake. I went up to the only immigration officer I could see, a woman at the group tour counter. I asked her about it and she said no, I couldn't go in that queue, but then noticing Naomi who had come along with me, asked, 'Do you have small kids?' Yes! I said, a six month old too! and she agreed to take us through.

The car was the other miracle. The service I ordered brought the car around defrosted, running, and warm, so the drive home was fabulous, save Mei screaming and screaming, but even that didn't matter because we were the only ones who had to deal with it and if there is anything I can deal with, it's a screaming child. There was snow on the ground, but I relaxed, finally, in my car, with my family, and no one to defend my lifestyle choices against and no Christian radio quietly gnawing at me in the background. Rather, there was a Death Cab for Cutie song playing on BBC2, the one about heaven and hell being full and darkness all around, and I started to tear up as we pulled off onto the M1. Yes, I thought, yes, that's exactly right.

Snow covers everything here, but it doesn't matter — I regained the euphoric feeling I had when we stepped off the plane. I went to work and all my big thoughts were right where I left them, with my books and my coffee maker. I love my family and friends in the States, but I do not love being the car, and I do not love how I feel like I spend all my time going from one shopping center to another, where everything looks the same and the parking lots are so big. It feels like a pair of pants that do not fit anymore. To make peace with the US, I think I will need to return to a city there, and only leave to visit relatives, although I'm not even sure that would be enough at this point. Minneapolis was surprisingly hip, but still bitterly cold.