So, as I mentioned already, we’re traveling to the States very early on Wednesday morning. And by “we,” I mean Lavender and me, because we’re staying for about two months, and Mr. Mostafa’s job doesn’t offer two months worth of vacation days. So he will join us at the end of April and we will all fly back to Riyadh together in May.
Getting ready to travel separately is…weird. The last time I traveled alone, I was pregnant with Lavender. So obviously, since she was born, I’ve never traveled with just her. It’s going to be a whole new experience…especially since she’s on the cusp of two years old, meaning that she’s no longer a snuggly, sleepy, immobile infant. She’s a snuggly, awake, mobile toddler. But she’s still small enough that she’ll be sitting in my lap during the flights, not in her own seat, which is one of the reasons we decided to go to the States early this year; I suck at math, but even I am totally on board with the concept that two international plane tickets are cheaper than three international plane tickets. It’s our last chance to take advantage of that, because once Lavender hits the big T-W-O, we’re a family of three plane tickets.
So, by God, we’re doing it. Lavender turns two the day after we get back to Riyadh, which means there will be birthday parties on both sides of the world. We’re grateful for that.
Another reason that we decided to go at this time and on this schedule was because we kind of want to work toward a summer visiting schedule. When Lavender starts going to school, our summers will, inshallah, be spent in the States, so she (and any other children we may have) can get plenty of time in her other country, with her American grandparents, cousins, and friends. When that happens, Lavender and I will probably spend a couple months in the States on our own, and Mr. Mostafa will join us for the last month or so, as his vacation time allows. But for now, we wanted to start off that transition a bit more easily, with him being separated from Lavender for one month instead of two or more. He’s never been away from her for more than a few days, and he’s going to miss her. A lot. I get that, especially since I’ve never been away from her for more than a few hours. Even now, sometimes they’ll be playing on the floor (as I type this, they’re playing tea party with real cookies and pretend tea), and he will grab her and hug her and say, “Oh, habibeti, how can I be away from you for a whole month?!”
It’s going to be a little rough this go-round, and we’re very grateful it’s just a month. We’ll Skype a lot, and we also discovered an app called A Story Before Bed, which lets him record stories for Lavender to watch on the iPad. So we’re well-equipped.
Another reason we decided to go now is because my mom wants to take a trip to northern California to visit her mom (my grandmother, and Lavender’s great-grandmother, just to be extra clear). I want to go with her, because Lavender hasn’t met her great-grandmother yet. We’re road tripping, and we will be stopping at a few major landmarks on the way back to Missouri–namely, the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. I also intend to eat a great deal of authentic Bay Area sourdough bread while in California, and I hope Lavender will appreciate it as much as I do. My family can never get enough of that sourdough.
So Mr. Mostafa and I are planning out our traveling details well in advance of his departure date–such as what carry-on bag he will use, and that sort of thing, because this is what we do every time we travel, and I won’t be here in Riyadh with him to go through the process before he leaves for Missouri. He’s a meticulous organizer, and because we worry about different details of the traveling experience, we complement each other (usually). He’s already stressing about the fact that so far, we haven’t been able to reserve seats next to each other on one of our return flights (we’re all on the flight, just without specific seat reservations), and he’s been busy making sure Lavender and I have an optimal seat, since I really have no preferences about where I sit on a plane (I’m always just happy to be on it–although I do enjoy window seats); thus, for the past few days I’ve been bombarded by outer monologues and questions like, “Honey, I picked a seat for you that’s on the double-seat side of the little jet from Dallas to Springfield; is that okay? You’ll probably have to sit next to some random person, but I read somewhere that on the single-seat side of the jet, there isn’t an extra oxygen mask in case you need them.” And, “Do you want a seat closer to or further away from the bathroom? It’ll be easier for you to get to the bathroom, but I don’t want you to have to deal with bathroom noises and smells the entire flight. I like to sit near the bathroom, because I drink a lot of water, so that’s where I’ll sit when I’m traveling alone. But what do you prefer?” And, “Do you think it’s rude of me to reserve bulkhead seats for when I’m traveling by myself? I hate when I see guys flying alone taking up bulkhead seats, especially when there are moms with babies in other seats that need them.”
I’ve been encouraging him to choose whatever seat he thinks are safest and most convenient, to offer to switch seats with any moms he sees who are traveling alone with a lap baby and might need a bulkhead seat more than he does, and to not sweat the things we can’t control.
I’m scouring online maps of Heathrow Airport (because we have a five-hour layover in London) to find the family play areas and the nursing rooms in our terminal and practicing getting Lavender in and out of the Ergo Sport baby carrier that a very sweet friend here in Riyadh is letting me use for our trip (I’m a babywearer, but I’ve always used a Moby Wrap, and I haven’t worn Lavender since was small enough to fit in a newborn hug hold, and then a regular hug hold. We decided to try a different sort of baby carrier for this trip, instead of dealing with the headache of gate-checking a stroller. We’ll see how it goes, and if it’s successful, we’ll be investing in our own). Meanwhile, he’s making sure that we have everything we might need elsewhere. He thinks about things I wouldn’t immediately consider, and vice-versa.
For example, I just figured that if I wanted or needed to buy something in Heathrow Airport on our five-hour layover in London, I would swipe my American debit card and that would be that. There are bank fees involved with that, but I didn’t worry about it because I only planned to buy something if I really needed to (I plan to carry snacks and such, and we’ll eat on the Riyadh-to-London flight, as well as the London-to-Dallas flight). Then on Thursday, Mr. Mostafa came home and busied himself in the bedroom for a few minutes, before coming out with a small zippered folio, held open and displaying its contents.
“Okay, sweetie,” he said. “I think this is everything you’ll need, right? All organized. Here are all the passports, and here’s your entry/exit visa. Here’s a printout of your itinerary. Here’s a pen, so you can fill out your customs form on the flight without having to borrow one or asking a flight attendant. Here are some riyals in case you want to buy something in the airport in Riyadh once you get past security. And here are some British pounds for when you’re in London.”
“How in the world did you get pounds?” I exclaimed, momentarily forgetting that I’m in an enormous city and not tiny-town southern Missouri, where Mr. Mostafa once tried to change riyals into dollars at a local bank and the bank tellers had to get out a big binder of pictures of foreign currency in order to compare pictures of Saudi riyals to the real thing in front of them, to make sure he wasn’t trying to pull their leg.
But as it turns out, he didn’t even get the pounds from a bank teller. “Oh, I’ve been buying them off my British coworkers for a few weeks now,” he said. “When they get back from visiting Britain, they have pounds and they want riyals, and I have riyals and I want pounds. So it worked out. I know you never carry cash, but I figured you might want to have some in London. Just in case.”
I almost got a bit teary.
We make a pretty great team. And I think we’re ready for this new adventure.
Can’t wait to hug my parents in Missouri. And look out, London. Lavender’s a-comin’.