One thinks that when you get off the plane the journey is over, that the exhaustion will end, that the crying will cease, that you will stroll down the aisle to be met by the freedom of handing your temperamental two year old over to her mother.
It's a lie.
We were the last people to get off the plane because trying to collect all of our things and set up the stroller was harder than it looked. I had to wake Monica to put her in the stroller so we could wheel our way to freedom and by the recommendation of a flight attendant, we backed off the plane (apparently you get caught on less things that way). Of course, this caused an uproar because Monica had to look at said flight attendant who followed us off. We also lost a wheel half way down the aisle. That's what I get for buying a cheap stroller: One that periodically loses its wheels.
We finally reached solid ground. Smooth sailing from here, I thought. Until we hit the line. Yes, the customs line that wrapped itself around the room a million times and all the way down the sterile hallway where we placed ourselves at the very, very end. I'm pretty sure there were at least 500 people in front of us and that is not an exaggeration. 500 people, and then me, the one with the screaming child. We were out of food. All airplane food had been rejected. The sandwiches were thrown aside. The granola bar evoked louder screams. There was nothing left.
Thank God for the first kind soul I'd met on my entire journey. The woman in line in front of me was traveling alone with 2 kids and kindly pulled out some alphabet cookies, which miraculously soothed my screaming child.
It was about 20 minutes later when we finally made it into the actual room where customs was and that is when I saw the small line off to the side marked "immigration." It hadn't occurred to me before that this child was immigrating into the U.S. My dear friend in front of me offered to hold my place in line while I went to investigate. The flight attendants in the line next to immigration looked apologetically at me as I wheeled myself to the front to inquire about where exactly I was supposed to be.
The man I asked quickly shuffled me forward, taking my paperwork and asking me questions. Freedom at last! Someone was finally going to give me a break. I was going to the front of the line! Take that 500 people who don't have screaming children! I'm going first!
Then he handed me back my papers. I've put you in the system, now go back to the end of the line.
What!?!? Are you kidding me? Please say this is some cruel joke.
No. It wasn't. Back to the end of the immigration line I went, walking past the flight attendants who questioned me as to why I was returning (You see, they were on my side. They thought I should get to go first too). So there we stood, at the back of the line once again. The screaming had died down... temporarily. But soon they started up again.
Fine. Cry as loud as you want. If you want to scream a little louder, that's fine with me too. Come on, let them hear you Monica. If they're going to make my pour, exhausted, hungry child wait, they'll at least have to listen to her scream.
I was hoping that our little melt down would get us bumped forward, if only for the sake of shutting us up. Then another lady with a cracker showed up. I was slightly less thankful this time because the cracker caused quietness, which completely ruined our chance of getting to the front of the line.
So there we stood for another hour while all 500 people passed through and the 20 of us in the immigration stood, waiting. After a while I whipped out my phone and turned on some music. I figured if we all had to wait, we might as well have something nice to listen to. The music played and the line dwindled, and finally it was our turn. The last of the last. I once again pulled out our stack of papers and presented them to the far too chatty man at the desk who insisted on telling me of his cousin's story of adoption and discussing Monica's future. How I kept from grabbing him by the throat and yelling that he had better hurry up so I could go home and sleep, I don't know.
But we made it through. We had a U.S. visa in hand and only one last obstacle to tackle. Baggage claim. Once again it was me, a child, a stroller, and a cart full of luggage, struggling through our final steps of the journey until....
(to be continued)