It was unreasonably sunny, after the ordeal we’d had.
Kayla–not yet two–had experienced the worst possible first flight. She’d been sick and unable to sleep, and while I’d struggled to soothe her, the creepy flight attendant had flirted with me all night. I’d also been motion sick, overheated, and generally uncomfortable, but all of it would be worth it. We were going to meet Jan at our new home. We hadn’t seen him for two weeks, and the prospect of reunion hung above my head like a small, warm sun.
Jan would join us at the stopover. Then he could help with Kayla, and everything would be okay. Everything.
We arrived in Frankfurt at around 6 am. Neither Kayla or I had slept, we couldn’t keep down our breakfast, and we were drenched in sweat as a neat little reminder of the flight from hell. But the fun wasn’t over yet.
We stood in line at border control for almost an hour. Kayla cried, the few-month-old baby behind us cried, but we were left in line like everyone else. Nobody collected the young, disabled, or elderly to fast track though the insane line. Kayla was afraid and bothered, and refused to let go of me when I had to go through the metal detector, so we both had to be strip-searched (which, of course, bothered her even more and the volume doubled). We were late for our flight, but they held the plane for us.
We reached the gate–a different one that we’d initially been told to go to. The flight attendant informed us my husband wasn’t there (because he’d gone to the old gate, on the other side of the airport). She was annoyed that we were late, which soured her mood. I asked if she would call his cell, but she refused, so I had no idea where he was or if he was still coming. She harshly told me to either get on the plane or get lost, so we got on the plane. What else could we do?
When we finally arrived in Düsseldorf, as a last hurrah, my luggage had gone missing. At that point, I just pulled into a heap and cried on the floor. A lady working at Enterprise Car Rental helped me. She was the first person who cared enough to even come over. She offered Kayla a lollipop, phoned Jan, learned he’d hopped on a train and was on his way, and his boss would pick us up.
We met up with the boss and waited on the bridge between platforms for Jan to arrive.
And it was unreasonably sunny. Blue skies, not a cloud, Germany’s lush greenness on the sides of the tracks, birds chirping, and just generally amazing.
Trains came and went like clockwork, but none of them was the one. Until it was.
I remember Jan’s head popping up over the top step of the escalator. I remember Kayla’s squeal of ‘Daddy!’ and her stumpy little legs as she ran into his arms. I remember the rush of tears, the knot in my throat, the flood of relief and joy and love. And when he hugged me, the sky wasn’t blue enough, the sun wasn’t bright enough, and the scenery paled in comparison to what lived in my heart.
All of this happened today, five years ago.
We no longer live in Germany, and my migration story of reaching Canada is far less complicated. But this day, August 24th, will always have a special meaning to me. It was a day that changed my life forever. A day that woke me up. The day that kicked off the biggest adventure I’d ever had.
My adventure is ongoing. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s real. I’ve grown so much from the teary, scared woman who’d flown to a new country with her toddler. I’m grateful to her. I’m grateful she’d had the courage to attempt that trip. That small grain of courage grew enough to make her chase her dreams, when everyone said it couldn’t be done. It made her skin thicker, amped up her tenacity, and made her work harder.
So, my wish for you today is courage–even if it’s just a grain. Grains can multiply.