16: The Sweetest Sight

16: The Sweetest Sight

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

The Sweetest Sight

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.

~Angela Schwindt

I was in the most beautiful city in the world yet I only wanted to go home.

It had been an amazing week of travel for my husband and me—London and Paris—the trip of a lifetime. Months previously, when my husband Doug told me that he was hoping to attend a ministry conference in London, I told him there was no way he was going to Europe without me. We cashed in our frequent flyer miles, secured my in-laws to watch our two children, booked the most inexpensive hostel we could find and were off.

After navigating the subway system, we soaked up as much of London as we could, taking in sights that we had only ever seen courtesy of the Travel Channel; the Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, even original manuscripts by Jane Austen and sketches by da Vinci. We boarded the Eurostar and zoomed to Paris to cap off our adventure. As we exited a corner bakery, croissant in hand, the Eiffel Tower peeked out at us and we pinched ourselves. We toured the gothic Notre Dame and marveled at the brilliant stained glass of the round “Rose” windows. Unable to afford a fancy dinner, we bought fresh bread, cheese and fruit and nibbled away as we sat in the courtyard of the Louvre. We stood beneath the colossal Arc de Triomphe, the sculptured marbled angels towering above us. It was truly amazing.

On our last night in Paris, after witnessing the Eiffel Tower twinkle with hundreds of white lights while Parisians picnicked on the lawn, Doug found a payphone in a small pavilion and called home. It was midnight. We were sleepy but giddy.

“Bonjour,” he chirped as his mother answered the phone back in Illinois. In mere seconds, my husband’s face fell, his blithe expression suddenly somber. My heart immediately went into overdrive.

“What?” I said. “What’s wrong?”

He shooed my question away with his hand and continued to listen. I began to silently pray. Oh God, Oh God, My kids my kids. A prayer of desperation. A prayer I hoped God could decipher. I had no idea what was going on, had no idea what to pray.

Finally, Doug covered the mouthpiece and whispered to me that Elijah, our seven-year-old, had fallen off his bike and broken his leg. I began to cry. Was it a bad break? Yes. Was he in pain? Yes. But he was okay. He had broken his leg. Just his leg. He was okay but we needed to get him to an orthopedic surgeon in our hometown as soon as possible.

As we walked back to our hotel, Paris suddenly lost its charm. I don’t want to be here, I thought. I shouldn’t be here, I should be home with my kids, with my son, and our flight didn’t leave until the following afternoon. It wasn’t soon enough.

The next day we made it as far as Cleveland only to discover that our flight to Chicago was delayed due to storms. I sat in the terminal with other disgruntled travelers, most of whom had not just endured a transatlantic flight, and couldn’t help but overhear their conversations:

“I was supposed to be at a meeting tonight.”

“We’ll have to cancel our dinner plans.”

“Better find a hotel and come back in the morning.”

I sat and seethed, wanting to scream that none of their petty plans mattered—I needed to get home to my son. Had I been in my right mind I would have realized that everyone around me had a life too; they had their own problems and dilemmas, some probably more dire than mine. But in that moment I was completely myopic. I was an irrational, frightened mother who didn’t understand why the plane couldn’t just fly through the lightning bolts to get her home.

We finally got into Chicago at around three in the morning and I snuck a peek at both of my sleeping children, wanting and not wanting to wake them. There is nothing, nothing, nothing like the sight of your children after you’ve been separated. No cathedral, no great painting or famous landmark compares to the sight of their sweet faces.

For the rest of the summer and into the fall, Elijah was in a hip-to-toe cast. We took up jigsaw puzzles, read James and the Giant Peach, drew all over his plastered leg with markers and even hobbled to the beach and dug out a water hole for his good leg to soak in.

We told our kids all about the great cities of London and Paris, showed them our photographs and gave them the souvenirs we had bought for them. Yet the truth was, out of all the amazing sights we took in that summer, our favorites were the two little faces that greeted us at home.

~Rachel Allord

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