For the past 48 hours, Charlie has had one thing on his mind:
Gong Gong and Po Po are coming to visit.
Sunday and Monday he seemed determined to stay up until we went to the airport and, while photos and schedules helped some, Charlie remained fretful (and, as noted, fell asleep one night on the couch by the front door). 'Airport' was his last word to me when I dropped him off at school on Tuesday morning (we were a bit late as Charlie was slow to get up, after two nights of going to bed late).
Not that we were going to forget!
My parents' plane was late to take off and was not due to land till after 9pm. A late afternoon bike ride helped to fill the time (and Charlie was very motivated to do it, getting his helmet and yellow jacket and gloves speedily on). He was ready to hop in the car at 6.45pm but agreed to wait with a timer set for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Charlie stood, tall and serious, as I wrapped up some presents.
Finally, we all headed to Newark Airport. Charlie wanted to get out so we all went into Terminal C and walked around through the baggage claim area.
As he checked out the electronic monitors to see when my parents' flight would arrive, Jim was asked if he worked at the airport and could offer some directions. (Never underestimate the power of a neon yellow jacket.)
Charlie held onto his iPad and a pair of my mom's shoes as we walked around, past a glass case of unclaimed luggage (so many folded-up strollers and one toddler carseat, and a pretty basket stuffed with something in a big plastic bag), and past several polyester-uniformed men holding up signs with people's names scralled in all capital letters.
'White car,' said Charlie.
Harsh fluorescent lights (as you can see by the yellow-orange glow on my face), constant buzzings and rustlings and shouts and murmurs, beigey-gray linoleum and walls (Newark Airport still has a long way to go in the soothing-travelers'-already-frayed-nerves department) all added up to an unpleasant sensory environment (for anyone).
So it was back to the car for a drive to the outer environs of the airport, back onto a state highway and past the Anheuser-Busch plant from which appeared spumes of steam. Jim parked the car again in the parking deck and went in to find my parents.
Charlie and I stayed in the car. He kept the music playing, with an occasional glance in the direction Jim had gone in, and then a very big smile when, after a half-hour, my parents and Jim appeared.
And Charlie again did not, could not, fall asleep until past midnight, this time from excitement. And, I suspect, from relief that my parents had indeed shown up.
It has some two years since Charlie, once a regular traveler on cross-country plane flights, has been in an airport. We were heartened to see him walking amid the luggage carts and with all the buzz of activity around him. One hears so many stories of delays and crowded planes with (understandably) cranky passengers (not to mention the crew), of tempers flaring and having to stay in your seat while the plane sits on the tarmac and all that and Jim and I felt a lot of relief ourselves, knowing that we don't have to drag ourselves and Charlie threw it all.
But I am mighty pleased that he himself wanted to try going into the airport and that he told us when he needed to leave.