My El Al aircraft carrier at LAX Internatioal Airport
After everyone in my house had gone to sleep on the night before my departure, I stayed up to pack away the last few items for my big move into the three giant suitcases sprawled out in the hallway outside my bedroom. After every trinket was in its place and when there was nothing else left to do, I laid silently in my bed, somewhere in the early morning hours, where I cried myself to sleep.
The next morning, I rose early, filled with a mix of adrenaline and trepidation. I wanted to be awake and alert for the last few hours I would spend at home before driving up to Los Angeles to grab my international flight. These few hours were a mix of last minute pack-ins, sudden bursts of tears, deep breaths, and shouting between upstairs and downstairs amongst my family members while the smell of french toast sifted up through the vents. Then there was my dog, with her pouty face and deep puppy-dog eyes, imploring me relentlessly not to leave. Seemingly human with her emotions, she took a good look around at my full suitcases, let out a deep huff, and crept slowly away in frustration and confusion. My heart nearly broke. If you are a dog person, or an animal person at all, then you likely know about this sense of abandonment that we people feel at times towards our four-legged counterparts. It's nearly too much to handle sometimes.
A few hours later, we had somehow made the two-hour journey from San Diego to L.A., which seemed more like a 15 ride, where I found myself with bags in hand at LAX's international terminal. My mom, my dad, my sister and I each grabbed a suitcase or carry-on and towed them grudgingly toward the El Al departure terminal. After being routinely interrogated by the Israeli check-in staff and after successfully handing over my bags, we ventured upstairs and secured a spot at an open food court table, where my dad insisted I have one last all-American meal before I left: a Pink's hot dog and fries, of course. I devoured every inch, relishing the flavor of this dish that never ceases to remind me of good father-daughter moments, holiday barbecues and summer baseball games.
What started out as an entire precious hour to savor with my family somehow turned into a mere few minutes left to go before security beckoned me forward to my future. We soon realized this was so and my dad announced that it was time to go. That is when my mom pulled out her sewing kit and insisted that she fix one more button on my jacket, to make sure that my winter coat would hold up abroad. I giggled at my older sister, who knowingly understood exactly what my mom was trying to do: delay the inevitable. Of course, I let her fix that little button right up, while smiling away at my sister in complete understanding. And just when she was finished securing the stitch, I heard my mom say: "Maybe I should just do this button below it as well, just to make sure." I let out a second giggle, and away she went with round two of her stitching. As we watched her struggling to buy more time at the button's burden, my sister Heather mentioned to my mom that there was an extra button somewhere on the jacket that my mom needed to point out to me in case I needed a new one. My mom answered: "Oh yes, I'm glad you mentioned that, I really wanted to show you where that extra button is, Erin, and I nearly forgot." Rather than giggle this time, I couldn't help but resist a warm tear from running down my left eye. She didn't want me to leave; and I didn't want to go either. My adoring mom was coming up with every excuse to delay my departure, including refastening perfectly fitted buttons and pointing out extra pieces on the same jacket. I watched silently as she continued to sew up the last few stitches, while my sister comforted me as I struggled to keep tears from flowing from my eyes. I was unsuccessful, as were they.
|With my older sister Heather|
|Saying goodbye to mom and dad|
Moments later, my family did indeed see me off - reluctantly so. My dad, always one to tie in Jewish history lessons at any possible moment, reminded me that both Abraham and Moses had made difficult journeys in their lifetimes and were better men because of it. Though as I child, I used to sneer and laugh at these biblical sorts of references, I now take them as great tokens of love and appreciation. My dad embraced me in a giant hug and told me that I would have made my grandparents proud. After a few more hugs and loving words, I was off. And I can still recall my family standing there, huddled together, as each one of them gave a perfect "Ray" wave and fastened smiles that continued until I was eventually out of sight and beyond security. Yes, we are "that" family that you see at the airport that others look at and think, ''come on, already." With my family out of sight, and the image of my husband in my mind's eye, I embarked onto the plane that would take me on a 16-hour ride from the jeweled coast of Los Angeles to a bird's eye view of the Grand Canyon, over the setting sun on the Great Lakes, nighttime over the Atlantic Ocean, onto sunrise over the southwest corner of Ireland and British Wales, then steering over aerial views of Paris, Switzerland, Venice and the Greek islands before finally descending over Israel's western beaches and shore into the bustling city of Tel Aviv. A common experience on any El Al flight, the cabin cheered and roared in applause upon landing after 16 hours in the air as the jet's wheels came into contact with Israeli earth. An amalgam of Hebrew voices melded together throughout the aircraft as the majority of passengers suddenly bursted out singing Israeli celebratory tunes and chanting various mantras of heaven-sent thanks for a safe journey home. I couldn't help but get goosebumps from head to toe in response to the utter patriotism and booming pride surrounding me on every side. This was my home now, too.