We’re Outta Here!

Thursday, August 6:

I haven’t slept in 32 hours and I’m on a 14-hour flight from Beijing to Newark and I’m six-foot-two-inches tall trying to sleep in a space where I couldn’t hang a sock without it wrinkling and I’ve got some jackass in front of me who first thing he did when he got on the plane was recline his seat as far back as possible and of course I’ve got some kid behind me who’s kicking my seat but I’m thinking to myself that this is the first flight where I might actually get even with these passengers because I’ve got a two-year-old girl next to me with a healthy set of lungs and I’m betting at some point she screams on this flight and I hope it annoys the freaking beejezus out of these people and makes up for all the years I’ve had to sit by obnoxious adults on an airplane so I watch a Japanese movie called “Departures” then “Annie Hall” because I forgot Christopher Walken was in it, then the “French Connection” and finally some crappy movie that just came out called “17 Again” because I’m thinking I’ll sleep if I watch something I’m not interested in but watching a bad movie reminds me of an episode of a TV show “Ghost Whisperer” that Bernadette watches and in this one episode there’s a plane crash and the people on the plane wind up wandering the earth together and I’m thinking if this plane crashes and I have to spend eternity with these pinheads I will definitely kill myself but wait, I’m already dead so now I’m totally screwed…

Did I mention I’ve been up for the past 32 hours?

LATER, MUCH LATER: I think the feeling of exhaustion is circular rather than linear because you just reach a point when you are so tired that you’re awake. I hit that point at Newark Airport as we waited for the customs official to stamp Penelope’s passport making her a U.S. citizen. We gather our luggage. Our friends Nick and Amy and their two children meet us at the airport. Nick suggests we stop for Chinese food on the way home. Bern and I look at each other nervously. I consider opening the sliding door of the minivan and splattering myself across the interstate. Bern, more rational than I, simply begs off.

We arrive home and the place is festooned with balloons, banners, flowers, crepe paper streamers and food for the next few days, courtesy of Amy and another neighbor, Karen. We’re home five minutes when Karen, her husband James and their son show up on our doorstep. I wonder if Amy has a bat signal rigged to the top of their car but I learn later that Amy employs the much more conventional cellphone when I’m not looking. I open a nice bottle of red wine I’ve been saving for a special occasion, and we toast.

We all walk to Karen’s barn so Penelope can pet the horses and get scared out of her wits by their German Shepherd. I imagine Penelope snatching my cellphone, contacting the Chinese embassy and demanding she be immediately returned to the Mother country.

Darkness clings to the tree branches and the older children are dancing around the backyard with sparklers. I’m holding my daughter as the night begins in our first day in America.

The day is ending, yet a new day has begun.

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