Heading for Home from New York
The Flight Home
Two glasses of wine and some chicken sate sort me out. I am relaxed, in good spirits, done a little bit of shopping. Fifteen "I love NY" post cards, and a box of 15 "I love NY" chocolates. I have plenty of time. So I sit and I write this.
I wait in the front of the queue for 50 minutes, there is nobody at the gate, I am thinking this is am empty flight. I meet Susan, a ministers wife from Rotchester (I think) who only just returned from Florida, but who is flying to Brisbane to see a friend for ten days. TEN DAYS? I say you need ten WEEKS, she nods. I also meet Joanne, a tiny Aussie woman who has lived in New York for twelve years, married to an American. She goes 'home' every summer, and is determined not to lose her Aussie accent. It distinguishes her, she says and I agree. Then she adds she can hardly hear my South African accent. My heart pings.
I am in the front of the queue and join the families with babies, I meet Zoe, who is a sweet, gurgling seven months old, with her Aussie Dad and her Canadian Mum. She travels well.
I am through. This is effortless. The Aussie crew smile and their accents are such a joy to my ears, Annie, who is English, advises me the flight to Los Angeles is almost empty, I should make the most of the seats, and stretch out, then it’s full from LA to Aussie. Oh bliss.
The captain tells us he is sorry for the slight delay, its icy and snowy, and then we are on our way. It has not snowed in the last hour, and we don't have to de-ice the aircraft, which he tell us takes a long time, and we are going to leave in ten minutes - and its just ive hours to LA.
I feel I am at home already. And in this plane - Australia, I am coming home!
Annie brings me a Business Class vanity pack which is 'better than the new ones' - bless her, feeds me my gluten free meal first, and ensures I have a gin and tonic to go with it AND wine. I like Annie, we think similarly. I have three seats to myself and sleep like a baby for a couple of hours, and then I watch a couple of movies. I had a Movie Fest and watched so many on both legs of the journey there and back, I cannot recall them all - but they include a Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth "Only when you're Sleeping" or something like that, the one with Bill Murray being a grumpy old man looking after a young boy for his neighbour, One Hundred Feet to Somewhere about an Indian family setting up a restaurant in France, Jane Fonda as the grieving mother who turns out to be lesbian, insisting all her children grieve appropriately at their fathers funeral, a couple I started and stopped, they were so awful, and The Judge, which had sound so bad I could not hear and had to end it too.
At Los Angeles I move quickly as there is not much time between flights, and am off the plane fast, and arrive at my departure gate with time to spare. I get in the queue, and am told that I won’t board for at least an hour and a half, there are apparently three flights to Australia - one to Melbourne, one to Brisbane and one to Sydney all leaving within an hour. Quite amazing. I wander the shops, everything is expensive and the duty free here alcohol is more expensive than the regular prices at the airport in New York! I buy two satin eye masks for $10, good padded ones, something I always need - and a cute little massager, also for $10, and return to the departure gate. There I am greeted by a young man I recognise who sat behind me on the flight TO New York - Enzo, the architect - what a surprise! He asks if my girlfriend REALLY was surprised to see me, I am surprised that he has remembered so much. We spend the next 45 minutes sharing our holiday experiences, and he gives me the name of a friend of his who is a lawyer specialising in work visas for Australians in the film industry. Who knows - Joshua may need his expertise one day. He has had a ball, been to interactive theatre, hired stretch limo with his five mates, eaten in all kinds of special places, and went to the 9/11 Memorial, which he says was very moving. I am so sorry I never got there.
Finally we board, and I notice people when I finally alight who were not in the business class 'call' already seated, way behind me. Funny how the rules just don't apply to some people. I am hoping for three seats, and I think I have them - BUT just before the door closes, a woman rushes in and sits at the end of my row, with a spare seat between us. She looks agitated and is twisting and turning, breathing heavily, clearly gay, and dressed in a very masculine way. She consults with two of the staff, separately, and just after take off, she is escorted to another seat. YAY I think, but shortly after that, a young man comes to take her place. He is from Venezuela! - and attending UTS in Sydney, studying Business Management, how amazing is that? I only discover this at the end of our flight, as I am keeping 'mum' not wanting to spend a long flight talking - he no doubt felt the same.
This flight does not have Annie on it, unfortunately, and things are slow - not a drink to be seen, and no food for a good three hours. Finally, the drinks trolley appears, I am hanging out, have pressed the button for water, and already drank one bottle, and now, amazingly, they have run out of water and my water bottle which I always refill - has been thrown away. Suddenly an American voice shouts "SEIZURE! SEIZURE! This woman is having a seizure!" People gasp and turn, the flight attendants at the drinks trolley stop, and run down the aisle to get to her, a dark haired woman on the aisle seat - seated beside the gay woman who left my row of seats earlier. My heart sinks - she looks dead. She has the same whitish grey pallor my mother had when I dressed her in the funeral parlour. Qantas Crew have oxygen, drinks, wet towels, ice and have swung into action with such skill, these same people I thought were 'slow' with dinner and drinks. I assume there will be an announcement "Is there a doctor on board?" - but hear nothing, and I do not wish to pry, but cannot resist looking back, where her colour is beginning to return, and she is breathing. The lady who left me is attending to her, so perhaps they are friends, or perhaps she is just a kind hearted lady.
The rest of the flight is unremarkable. Remarkably LONG. I sleep, uncomfortably, in fits and starts, watch movies, and hold my bursting bladder till the young Venezuelan man wakes up so I don't disturb him. My eyes are gritty, my clothes are sticky and sweaty, my feet are swollen, I hate the food, and want a drink, am parched for water, but cannot find the flight attendant button in the dark, and as always, I am struggling with the screen of my TV, pressing incorrect buttons which take me back to the start, and jump forward or backwards instead of turning the sound up.
I am ready to get off this plane.
As we land, I send up a grateful prayer to God, The Universe, and my Mom and Dad - I text Gerald, who I know will be waiting around the corner in a park there waaaay too early, with Cino. I am off the plane, and purchased my two bottles of gin in record time, through self serve customs, and the Gods are smiling as my suitcase is first one out - yay, I’ve won the lottery! I have a bag of pecans Nath and Yvonne have given me in my hot little hands to declare. I am first in, and straight out - and immediately I have to start removing clothes, its so hot.
I love the sign displayed in the Customs Area - "G'Day! Welcome Home!" - and I stop to take a photo, thank you thank you thank you God that I am Australian!
Ten minutes later I am in the car with my Beloved and my Baby Cino, Gerald has brought me a cotton blouse and shorts and sandals, all colour co-ordinated and bottles of water. Oh! I have missed this man, and I love him sooooo much!
I talk all the way home, watching the green hills and the blue sea roll out before me as we round the Kiama Bends, and ten minutes after our noon arrival, we are on the Seven Mile Beach. I wear a sarong and a bikini, my feet in the hot sand and cool sea, Oh! This air is so fresh! This sky is so blue! This beach is so clean! The temperature is so warm! I can run and jump and shout and swing my arms about in circles, there is a huge horizon of endless blue. I am watching my doggy dash frantically after the ball, and I hold Gerald's hand soooo tight, and I know that am never going overseas again without him.
It's been a wondrous adventure, and I am grateful. But there is no place like home, no doggy like Cino - and no man on earth like My Man.
I’m so grateful for the many blessings of my life.