The Great Escape
It was a long flight, especially as I spent most of it on the edge of my seat. What was I doing? Anxiety caused my stomach to knot, my throat to close and my heart to race all through the night. We changed planes in Copenhagen and it took all my strength to get three young children, loaded with hand-baggage, to the next gate. The flight from Denmark to Norway only took a few hours, but seemed much longer. I couldn’t sit still and was desperate for the plane to land.
“Mommy, how much longer?” Missy asked groggily.
Reality came to the rescue, pulling me back from the edge of a dark, downward spiral. Something always seemed to bring me back, but what if someday there was nothing to save me? What then? Would I fall into that dark hole, which seemed so eager to pull me down?
“Soon,” I responded, knowing she would never leave it at that.
“How many hours?” she continued.
I could feel the plane had begun its descent and the flight attendants were busy scurrying about the cabin collecting breakfast trays. I looked down at my child who was all curled up in her seat and anxiously waiting for good news. Her long blond hair, like corn silk, was tied up in two pigtails, one pulled high above her left ear while the other hung loose below her right.
She looked up, her blue eyes squinting and asked again. “How many hours till we get there?”
“One,” I answer.
This news seemed to excite her. She sat up, tugged on her loose pigtail until it was tight again and then proceeded to wake her brother and sister. They twisted restlessly keeping their eyes shut tight until their sister’s constant nagging forced them to give up hope of sleep. They were soon nudging and arguing with one another. I could hardly blame them, it was a long and confining trip. I told them to settle down and we’d soon be landing. By then the dull prolonged hum of the airplane’s engine had transformed into a loud altering roar. The plane labored as it cut back its speed and rolled over waves of air, like a roller coaster approaching its destination.
“Cabin crew prepare for landing,” was announced and the children, having abandoned their grumpiness, were excited to see their first glimpse of land. I was filled with regret over the ringside seats my children had to all Tony and I’s recent battles. I desperately needed to turn things around and prayed I was doing the right thing. I told them to think of this move as an adventure. We would experience another culture and maybe learn a new language. It would be fun. Please, let them have fun!
As the wheels finally hit the runway, bounced up then down again and the aircraft struggled for control, I checked the time, 4:35 am. I reset my watch six hours ahead to Norwegian time and there it would stay for the next half year. I felt chills crawling up the back of my neck as uncertainty again claimed my thoughts. What kind of mother takes her children halfway around the world to live in a foreign country for six months? Away from their father and all the people who love them, two weeks before Christmas.
I pushed those thoughts away with more pleasant ones, of him standing in the airport this very minute, waiting for us. Could we, would we, have a future? This was the only way to find out. After the storm that devastated my life this past year, (or was it years?), I had to leave and seek happiness wherever it may be.
As we approached the gate, one last announcement was made. “Welcome to Stavanger, where the local time is 10:35 am, we thank you for flying Scandinavian Airlines and we hope you enjoy your stay here in Norway.”
“Welcome to Norway,” Harry said as we came through customs and met him in the arrival area. The children immediately started bombarding him with information, what they ate on the plane, what they packed, who hit who first while arguing over the window seat and so on. I watched as he scooped Missy up into his arms and thought how life just kept bringing me back to him.
Once our bags were piled in the car and the children belted in the back seat, we were on our way. The rain poured down and I couldn’t help noticing how different Norway looked in December. The trees were bare, the grass was yellow and there was no sign of the usual cows or sheep grazing along the way. Now barren of its fuchsia colored heather, the mountains seemed grayer and more forbidding than ever.
As we crossed Eigerøy Bridge and drove north past Myklebust, out towards the far end of the island to a place called Midtbrød, the children got a second wind. Excitement seemed to puncture my fatigue as well, and I could hardly wait to see our new home. We pulled up to a large private house where Harry went to the door to enquire about a key to the apartment.
“Is this our new house?” the children asked in unison.
“Not the whole house, only a small part of it,” I answered.
We went in to the ground floor apartment and began looking around. First we stepped into a small foyer where we could hang our coats and kick off our shoes. The number one rule in Norway was no shoes in the house. Anyone’s house. We then entered a large fully furnished, pictures on the walls, knickknacks on the shelves, room. It was a combination of living room, dining room and kitchen all in one.
“Look at the tiny refrigerator,” was the first thing the children remarked on.
Off the kitchen was a bathroom which had a shower, toilet, sink, washing machine and a rack to hang clothes on to dry.
“What’s that thing?” they asked, pointing to the rack.
Off the dining room was a door, which led to a very small bedroom. Inside stood a single bed against one wall and a set of bunk beds against the other, with hardly enough space to walk between them.
“Is this our room? Do we have to share with Michael?” Michele asked.
At the foot of the bunk beds was another door, leading into a second bedroom. Inside there was a large closet, a double bed and a nightstand. Both rooms were bare and basic.
I took a quick look, turned to Michele and said, “I guess this is my room, so the answer is yes, you have to share with Michael.” Hearing this, she and Michael immediately began fighting over the top bunk. Michele won.
It was small and couldn’t be compared to our house on Greentree Road. It was, however, clean, had all the basic necessities and would be our home for the next six months.
“Mom, the TV only has one channel!” Oh well, maybe it didn’t have all the basic necessities.
Harry carried in the luggage, then went to the store and bought some food to get us through the night. I stayed behind, made up the beds and searched the suitcases for the children’s pajamas. By four o’clock in the afternoon it was pitch dark and the children had gone to bed. We were finally alone.
“It’s only been six weeks since I left America, and I was shocked when I saw you at the airport this morning, you’ve lost a lot of weight, what’s wrong? Why are you here and what the hell happened over there?” he asked, and I saw nothing but confusion in his eyes.
I told him the whole ugly story and I didn’t leave anything out. The smashed car windows, the broken fingers, the hospital stay, even the one night stand. I told him everything. He said nothing, but held me tight. Feeling safe and curled up in the nook of his arm I fell asleep. I woke sometime later as he got up to leave.
“I have to drive back to Stavanger and go to work in the morning. Go back to sleep and I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said.
I didn’t want him to go but knew he couldn’t stay. I followed him to the door where he hugged me again and said, “I can’t make you any promises, we have to take this one day at a time and see what happens,” and then he was gone.
I suddenly felt more tired and alone than ever before. I snuck through the children’s room and into mine. The room was ice cold, I jumped under the covers and tried to go to sleep. The crisp, clean sheets were freezing and my body was not able to warm them. I laid for what seemed like hours curled up in a fetal position, unable to stretch out because of the unwelcoming chill all around me. Desperate for sleep I abandoned the bed and headed for the couch. The living room was warm and toasty and as I drifted off to sleep I couldn’t help but worry. What if my story scared him? What if he’s thinking “Screw this, she’s just not worth it”. What if I came all this way for nothing?