Today was exhausting and emotional for me. I woke up sad and tired. I had a hard time sleeping, and I was feeling homesick for my children. Unbelievably homesick. I longed to feel Tiana's sweet little arms around my neck again and just wasn't up for the long day ahead before we would finally be home in California. Every time I leave California, I always find myself remembering how happy I am to live in California and how much I miss it. The sunny, beautiful January days are so completely worth the high cost of living. (It really makes me wonder why it costs so much to live in New York. Seriously, people... I would not pay that much to bundle up every day of the winter).
Anyhow, so I bundled up warmly for the early morning ferry ride to the statue, which I knew would be cold, despite the forecast for the day being nearly 60 degrees at midday. It is a good thing I did too, because while waiting for the ferry in the morning I was rather cold, despite the multiple layers I had packed on.
We took the ferry to the Statue, but we did not get off since the Ellis Island Immigration Museum was our ultimate destination, and there was plenty of time for looking at an taking pictures of the Statue while on the boat. Seeing the students see the Statue of Liberty was a beautiful thing. As I watched them all gleefully snapping pictures of Lady Liberty, laughing and joking with each other, tired from a dream trip they had worked so hard for, I kind of got choked up. These beautiful, intelligent, hardworking young people are almost all immigrants or children of immigrants, whose families came here for the same reason as the families who passed by the Statue of Liberty a hundred years ago, on their way to Ellis Island- to give their children better lives. And there were my students, and, well, if this trip isn't the quintessential experience of that better life, well, then I am not sure what is.
Marc and I really enjoyed wandering around the immigration museum. The museum did a great job of honoring all of the elements of the melting pot that is America and covering the history of how they all got here. Sometimes, as a "white" person, I feel like I have no culture at all, like a mutt has no pedigree papers, but Ellis Island sort of reminded me that I too have a history. We were able to find the history of and artifacts from all of our ancestors- Marc's family is Cajun originally from France, German, and Ukrainian. My family is English (from a long, long time ago), Irish, Italian, and Cherokee Indian. We saw the stories of all of these groups, and it was sort of a beautiful picture of what makes up our wonderfully diverse children (especially since Marc and I essentially share NO common heritage; if diversity makes for strong DNA, well then my kids have incredibly strong genes).
After this, it was off to the hotel to pick up our luggage then on to the airport. I decided that with the warm weather and our week of experience with the subways, we could handle public transportation to the airport, and it actually all worked out very smoothly. In fact, it was even so warm, that many of us shed our coats for the walk to the subway. We got to the airport in plenty of time. I was much more relaxed on this flight and actually slept a little, probably because I was so relieved to be going home to my children. Until we were almost in Los Angeles and the pilot informed us that there was going to be some bad turbulence on the way in to the LAX and that it couldn't be avoided, so to expect it. He had the flight attendants take their seats, and shortly... it began.
Oh my. I am starting to hate flying. I am going to need a prescription for Xanax before our trip to Louisiana in February. Even Marc's knuckles were turning white as he gripped the seat, and I have never seen him get scared by turbulence before. Even when I am near tears, he is usually rolling his eyes at me. I was trying to stay strong for the students, especially the one next to me who had never even flown before this trip, but I was so scared. The plane jerked and dropped several feet, several times. It was even worse than on the way in. It was like a terrifying roller coaster ride, and many of the passengers would yell as if it was each time the plane dropped. I kind of wanted to cry. My hands were still shaking long after we were safely on the ground.
Once all the students had been picked up by their parents and Marc and I were in our car, on our way home to our home and our children, I felt this huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. It was over. Everything had gone smoothly. I had stayed perfectly within the budget. I had not lost any students. Throughout the trip, several students called me "Mom." Two of them accidentally, and one of kept saying, "Okay... mom," each time I reminded him to be on time or to put on another layer of clothing. Truly, although I tried very hard to treat them all like adults and give them some independence and trust, I had been counting heads, checking clothing, and making sure tummies were full for 4 days, and well, mentally parenting 14 teenagers is exhausting. It was a wonderful time, but I sure am glad it is over.
The big question on everyone's lips today was, "When are we going back?" My answer in short was... eventually. After doing some thinking, I am torn between Summer 2013 and Winter 2014. It takes at least 18 months to get it together, especially since these kids cannot quickly raise the kind of money required. It was a lot of work to raise the money. If we want to go in Summer 2013, we need to start planning again like... well, now. Planning this trip took hours of my time each week, and I just don't know if I am up to beginning that process again quite yet. Well, I guess I will think about.
Playbill does say that a new Houdini musical starring Hugh Jackman is on the radar for 2013 and Evita will also probably still be there. Hmm.... something to think about.