Unbeknownst to my parents and my girlfriend Katherine, I decided way back in September to fly home for Christmas. I bid Aja, Ellen, and Marie goodbye in Delhi and as they made their way to the train station; I headed to the airport.
Still not feeling well, I was ready for some good food in Amsterdam, where I was scheduled to layover for no less than 12 hours. When I first saw this itinerary, I was thrilled. I would get a full day in an amazing city and then proceed to New York from there! Unfortunately, the weather had other plans and the city of Amsterdam, along with a good deal of Western Europe, was effectively shut down. All flights out of Delhi to Europe were either delayed indefinitely or cancelled, so finding another way home wasn’t going to easy. There were just about 1,000 people in the Delhi airport in the same predicament as me, which didn’t improve my odds of escaping India. A family behind me wasn’t going to be able to get out for another 3 days and the airline was refusing to put them up anywhere…Inside I began to have a bit of a melt down, but then, salvation! Or so I thought…
I had pushed my way up to the front of the crowd and literally threw my passport on the counter because I had just discovered an Air India direct flight from Delhi to Chicago leaving in just over an hour. I was given a seat and even a ticket. I was ecstatic…I would still get home on schedule. When I got to the gate, however, I was flatly told that my ticket wasn’t good and that my initial carrier had assumed there would be enough room on the plane. I think I stood and stared at the woman behind the desk for a full minute without speaking. I was angry…to put it mildly.
I had now been in the airport for about 9 hours and I knew that the chances of me finding a second flight were slim to none, but I went back to the main ticketing area and began to attempt to negotiate my way onto a flight. After about another 2 hours of haggling and arguing, I was able to get a seat (business class no less) on Royal Jordanian Airways to JFK with a stopover in Amman, Jordan. At this point, I was in no position to be picky, so I jumped at the opportunity. I rushed through security and didn’t relax until I was sitting on the plane bound for Jordan.Amman and then another 13 to JFK and by the time I landed in an absolutely frigid New York City, I was feeling worse and very ready to stop traveling. Seeing my brother at the airport was an amazing feeling. He was in on the plan and had graciously agreed to drive me home from the airport.Once home I collapsed on my bed, which seemed so much softer than I remembered it. My parents were at the McCoy’s annual Christmas party so I had a few hours before they would be home. My sister Julie arrived home first and we had a wonderful reunion. When I heard my parents walk through the door downstairs, my heart began racing. As we rehearsed, Julie called down, “The package Ben sent from India came!” At that point I walked down the stairs and literally shocked my parents. My father took it in stride but was extremely happy and mymother just kind of stared at me as if I wasn’t real. It was good to be home.
The next day I was able to see most of my family at my Aunt Helen’s birthday party and they were all so surprised. Now I just had to make it 6 days before seeing Katherine. It felt strange to have been home for so long without being able to contact her. Those 6 days flew by thanks to fun times at home, sharing stories, listening to Christmas music, and just being with my family. I also spent quite a bit of time at my doctor’s office.
Christmas Eve arrived and I was so happy to be home. My family went to midnight mass at Saint Thomas in Thomaston and sat through a wonderful service. The church looked so beautiful; particularly because I had not seen the new carpeting, paint job, and kneelers. After mass, we went back to the house and waited for our guests to arrive for our annual Christmas Eve party. It was amazing to have everyone over the house and to see all of the smiling faces. My cousin Becky resurrected the tradition of having a piñata at the party, which made for even more memories. At the end of the night, my family and I cleaned the house and then exchanged gifts, as I would be leaving very early the next morning to drive up to Albany to surprise Katherine on Christmas!
I felt like a little kid waiting for Santa to arrive that night. I couldn’t sleep. I had been planning Christmas morning for four months and I was too excited to shut my eyes. Finally, after some of the longest hours of my life, my alarm sounded. I had already packed my car so I got dressed and hopped right in. I didn’t see another car on the road until I hit I-90, so I made great time and arrived at the McCoy’s around 8:15am.
When I arrived, I found the garage door unlocked like Katherine’s mom had promised. I put on the Santa hat that was waiting for me and quietly went into the house. Mr. and Mrs. McCoy (who I have to thank for helping me plan everything!) were already awake and waiting for me. I snuck upstairs and slowly opened Katherine’s door. She immediately lifted her head and what happened next was like a scene out of a movie. I barely got, “Merry Christmas!” out before she shot out of bed and jumped into my arms. It was one of the best moments of my life and I immediately knew my trip home had been worth it. We were both smiling ear to ear all day.
Katherine’s family came over for a Christmas feast, which was a lot of fun and the next day we headed into New York City to see Billy Elliot on Broadway! It was a phenomenal show and the dancing was particularly impressive. The trip to the city was made far more interesting by the blizzard that awaited us. I certainly didn’t envy Mr. McCoy as he was charged with driving back to Albany from Poughkeepsie. We arrived back far later than expected and the snow was still coming down fast. Katherine and I had to be up in just a few hours to make our way to the airport for our flight to Chicago, but the weather being what is was, we were certain that we would be getting a text alert that we were delayed or cancelled.
To our surprise our flight read “On schedule” on the Albany airport’s website. We were one of only three flights that went out! Thank you Southwest Airlines! We were both very excited to be going to Chicago to visit Uncle Paul and Aunt Robin, Diana, and Claire who Katherine hadn’t seen in years and I had never met.
From the moment we were met at the airport to the moment we were dropped back off, we had a great time in Chicago! Our stay included some amazing food, sledding, a neighborhood new years party, a trip into the city, and even meeting Mike Ditka! I am looking forward to seeing them all again this summer when they visit us. I was so happy to get to meet more of Katherine’s family. What a great group of people!
After returning to Albany, I drove back home where my family and I had a nice week of visiting, food, and games. Before I knew it, it was time to get back on a plane and return to India. I knew my time at home was going to go by quickly, but I was still a little taken aback at just how fast it had passed. Saying goodbye to everyone for a second time was slightly more difficult, but it was comforting to know that I would be home in another 4 months or so.
The NFL playoffs were on the night I was leaving, so I made sure to find a seat in front of the Packers VS Eagles game in my terminal. I was actually the absolute last person to board my Air France flight to Paris to the obvious annoyance of the flight crew/airport staff. I kept stalling and stalling until the 3rd quarter came to a close. I looked at the exasperated AF employee standing over my shoulder and joked, “Do you think I have time to watch the 4th?” Apparently she didn’t appreciate my humor. They like cheese in France, but I guess not on their heads!
During my short layover in Paris, I got some great coffee and enjoyed eavesdropping on people’s conversations in French. Then it was off to Bangalore where the girls would meet me later that night. Little did I know that my baggage would decide to stay in Paris for an extra day! I can’t say I blame it, but as for me, I was back in India!