15 Years Ago...
After a night spent sleeping on the floor we trudged down the stairs and loaded into the waiting blue van. The dog was curled at my mother’s feet. The hour was early, the air cool. The date was July 23 and we were on our way to the airport.
A plane was waiting to take us on to our next chapter of life, a chapter of life that would in fact redirect the whole course of the story. We were bound for the U.S.A.
6 large green suitcases packed to the brim and weighing in at 70lbs each(before the days of strict luggage weight enforcement), full of clothes and possessions that would be our only ones until the boat would deliver the rest of our belongings at the end of September, were loaded into the van, and we set out for Heathrow Airport. Dear friends journeyed with us that day, and family met us at the airport. My mum, having worked full time up until the Friday, packed up the house, taken care of two children - an eleven and eight year old and a dog, stood at the ready. One last step of checking the bags in and checking our dog in, then the final goodbyes.
We ate breakfast at the Burger King at the airport, a farewell breakfast. We didn’t hang around long, most of the goodbyes having been offered at farewell parties in the preceding weeks. Finishing up breakfast we made the long walk to the beginning of the ramp that lead us down to security and our gate. One last look back and that was it, we left England.
The plane ride was a blur, the only distinct memory being of my mum settling onto the plane, pulling an eye mask down, telling us to behave and then she slept. As an eleven old I didn’t realize the full impact the last few months had been on my mum, still at nearly 27 I don’t know the extent but I do have a greater understanding.
My dad had been living in the USA since April, and while he had made a brief (one week) return visit in June, my mum single parented us, worked full time, packed up our belongings - choosing what to keep and what to sell, uttered countless goodbyes and I am sure shed a tear or two. So getting on the plane and knowing there was nothing else she could do, nowhere my brother or I could go, my mum slept.
We didn’t have a direct flight into SFO, our first entrance into the USA was at LAX and as our first stop we had to collect our bags, the dog, and go through customs. The custom officer asked my mum if she was bringing dog food with her, I always remember that because of all the questions that was what was asked. On top of that our poor dog had had an accident in the crate mid flight, so standing on the sidewalk outside the airport doors my mum cleaned her and the crate up, and then we checked in for the short flight up to San Francisco.
We arrived at the airport, my dad stood there waiting to greet us with a big wide smile on his face and a bouquet of purple flowers. The purple flowers go down in history, because as my mum tells it, it would take a lot more than a bunch of flowers to smooth the welcome.
It took us a while to leave the airport as they had misplaced our dog, but we finally made it on the road and my dad in his exuberance and excitement to ensure us that this truly was the adventure he had promised took us the longer way home to show us the cracks in the freeway caused by earthquakes and the “prettier” scenery. He was driving a white station wagon, the church missionary car (note to churches: while no one wants to look a gift horse in the mouth, an old beat up station wagon isn’t the way to go in welcoming a family home...try for a nicer car!!!) and he was brimming with stories and his voiced was filled with excitement. He had found us a house, he had met this person and that person, he had gone here, done that.
But that’s my dad for you. He’s a risk taker, always has been, but once he became a Christian his risks took on new meaning as he took them for Christ, and acted in obedience.
Our move to California, USA was just that an act of obedience in answer to a call God had placed on his life. He had (and has) a passion for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and using his love and passion for sports he created inlets and opportunities to share what being a Christian was about.
My mum equally so is a risk taker, but a more calculated risk taker. She still takes the risk, but she makes sure there are no cracks along the way. This was a big risk, uprooting her life, her family to enter into a strange land. The language may have been the same, but the differences in culture and understanding were vast. I remember my mum telling the story of standing in the grocery store, the store itself grand in size, and staring at bottle after bottle of laundry detergent wondering which brand to buy.
To Be Continued...