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France in Five Days

Lena Stark | Writer - 4:30am "I'm flying to France" face

From my extensive study, I was the only person in the entire airport who looked this happy at 4:30am.

Prepare yourself for long-winded, dramatic backstory

I am not supposed to be here this morning sitting on a plane to France. I’m supposed to be at home snoozing quietly in my bed. This isn’t my trip. I have not planned and hoped and saved for the last year to fly overseas today, yet here I am. My dad is the one who is supposed to be here. I am taking his place.

T-6 Days (or last Thursday to you lay people):

Last week (Sun-Sat) was our church’s Family Camp at the beach, which we and my parents and my husband’s parents all attended. Two weeks prior to camp, my dad had minor surgery, which he began having complications with last week. Thursday morning I awoke to discover that Dad was in the hospital. Mom came back from the hospital two hours later to pack up their things and let us know they were going back home.

“Is your passport current?” Those were Mom’s first words to me when I finally found her. Dad was transported to the hospital by their house, and they went home.

T-5 (that was last Friday. See how I’m looking out for you?)

“We refunded your dad’s ticket and yours are booked.” – Mom

Thank you, terrorists, for prompting airline regulations when you hijacked aircraft on 9/11 that prohibit transferring Dad’s ticket directly to me. This means I am not on the same outbound flights as the others, which was undoubtedly part of you nefarious scheme.

[pullquote]“We refunded your dad’s ticket and yours are booked.”[/pullquote]Oh yes, right. “Others” is plural. Did I not mention that my parents were not flying alone? The point of the trip was actually to take three college-aged art girls to tour Paris and Provence since my mom speaks French and has taken a couple of other sets of girls there before.

Anyway, by Friday afternoon I was definitely going. Alas, I was still at the beach for one more day, and we were hosting about fifty people from camp that night. Not much preparing was going to get done that day.

T-4 (I know you can do this; I have faith in you. Okay, it was Saturday. I was sure you had that.)

“I might not be going either, so you might be taking the girls by yourself.” – Mom

Dad still wasn’t out of the hospital. Did I mention that I don’t speak French (Mom does)? Or that I’ve never been to France (Mom has)? Or that my driver’s license was due to expire during the first week of the trip (problematic with the second week plans to rent a car and drive around Provence)? Or that I still wasn’t even home from camp yet? It was about that time that I began to properly panic.

[pullquote]“I might not be going either, so you might be taking the girls by yourself.”[/pullquote]We drove home, unpacked the car, and went out and purchased walking shoes.

T-3 (a.k.a. “The Day of Doom”)

“Kyra and Henry both threw up last night.” – Husband

By noon another one of the kids was down, and by the afternoon my husband and I were both sick too. This was not helpful. I needed to be at the airport on Wednesday by 3:30 or 4am. Everything needed to be ready by Tuesday evening.

[pullquote]“Kyra and Henry both threw up last night.”[/pullquote]With the amount of available preparation time rapidly waning, I spent the time in between barfing episodes messaging everyone I knew asking them if they would be able to take a couple kids for a few days while Hub-ness worked during the week. In retrospect, that was probably the most convenient day to get sick before flying out.

T-2 (Monday, which should be permanently prohibited by law)

[pullquote]“HEY, YOUR DAD’S OUT OF THE HOSPITAL. FACEBOOK SAYS SO!”[/pullquote]Spent the morning finishing organizing the kids (thank you, everyone!) and making a spectacular (or possibly ridiculous) list of things to ask Mom about the trip, since it was looking like I was no going to be in charge in France and I had very little of the necessary information to manage everything. Where are we staying? Do we take a taxi there from the airport? Can I have the tickets for the train to Nimes? On what day do I have to have everyone to Nice? Do you tip in France? You know, small things.

Monday afternoon I kidnapped my friend Angie, who was already mad that I had ditched her for the beach for a week, and she spent six hours chatting and running all over town with me and my older son. Angie’s fun to take to the DMV.

“HEY, YOUR DAD’S OUT OF THE HOSPITAL. FACEBOOK SAYS SO!” she yells extremely loudly to me as I’m talking to the lady at counter. She’s taking the fact that I’m leaving for two more weeks really well, I thought to myself.

We made it to my parents’ house, said “hi” to Dad, bombarded Mom with questions, and borrowed a TSA lock. Dad was fried that Mom might miss the trip on his account; Mom didn’t want to leave Dad since he had just gotten out of the hospital. After getting all my questions answered, I started feeling like this might be doable.

T-1 (That means it’s the day before the take-off, in case you really have watched nothing involving NASA or space)

“Your Dad is covered; I’m coming.” – Mom

Knowing the trip situation, some friends had volunteered to stay with Dad while Mom is gone and another friend had organized for people to bring him meals.

I spent the day organizing up an itinerary for the trip so I knew what was going on, [pullquote]“Your Dad is covered; I’m coming.”[/pullquote] typing up kids’ itineraries for my husband including two birthday parties and eight places the kids are staying, printing out copies of our bills and my passwords and my itinerary for my husband in case I die, locating our life insurance information, packing, getting a hair cut, and making a million phone calls. I started working at 7am and finished at 10:40pm. Phew! All done. Angie messaged me five minutes later: “I am already angry with France. Have a safe flight. Don’t get Taken. I would hate to fly there to rescue you.” And there it is. “I would totally be all Liam.”

Blast Off! (after 3:39 minutes of sleep)

“Are your power cords in your carry-on? Don’t wear those flip-flops on the flight. What if you get stuck outside the airport and it’s cold? What if you have to sprint to catch a plane?” – Husband

[pullquote]”What if you get stuck outside the airport and it’s cold?”[/pullquote]He’s usually a very calm man, but the trick to telling when he’s worried is to watch for the irrational statements. It’s rare. I always feel very loved when it happens. I smiled and changed my shoes despite the facts that a) I could think of no plausible explanation for why I would be trapped outside an airport, b) the fact that I was wearing flip-flops with my khakis and sweater was not likely to produce hypothermia even if I did since it is June and I’m not going anywhere cold, c) the shoes he wanted me to change into were also sandals, just ones that had a back, and d) since I was planning to spend my seven hour layover in Newark writing and reading Isaac Asimov, I expected to have plenty of time to make it to my flight without sprinting. It’s all for you, dear. All for you. Except going on the trip. That’s for me.