St Louis is my hometown where I was born and lived until I was 53 years old. But Home is where my family is, and for the past 16 years, that has meant Maryland. I had been counting the days until I could see them again; my 2 sons, daughter-in-law, and 4 grandchildren. I am so lucky that they all live within 20 minutes’ drive of each other and much as I love living in San Miguel, I was dying to get to my son Stephen’s house in Rockville.
We arranged for Paco, Candida’s son, to drive us to a hotel in Leon the day before our flight to DC. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:20 the next morning, and Leon is an hour and a half drive from San Miguel. Plus, I was worried about my visa, and going a day in advance would give me time to straighten out any problem, if there was one. We are allowed 180 days stay on a tourist visa, but the immigration agent had written 108 on mine when we arrived in July, and it was well over that by January.
A clerical error on the agent’s part, but you never know what could happen if you run into a power-hungry government official! So we planned to get to the airport the afternoon ahead of our flight and get things sorted out.
Paco said his mother, my friend Candida, would like to go with us on the ride to the airport, which I thought was lovely of her. She showed up with a bag full of things she had prepared for us to eat, packaged in individual containers with napkins and forks for Jack and me, and some for herself—apple slices and jicama sprinkled with chili powder, plus cinnamon pastries she had made for us to eat in our hotel room in the evening.
She climbed into the back seat of Paco’s SUV and Jack moved up front with Paco. Candida and I spoke (in Spanish) the entire way to the airport. Jack has gotten very good at riding in silence when Paco drives us since he speaks no English and is so shy he doesn’t connect non-verbally either, except in Spanish.
We arrived at the immigration office at the airport at 3:30, but there was a sign saying they were closed and would re-open at 4:00. am. I was awake literally the whole night worrying (I am my mother’s daughter) that there would be a line at immigration, or the guy wouldn’t speak English, and anyway I’d get a whopping fine for having overstayed my alloted time, and then I’d miss our flight to Dallas trying to fix things. One thing I’m very good at is worrying. So you can imagine how easily worry slipped into panic when we got to the migration office at the airport the next morning and a sign said they’d open not at 4:00 am but at 4:30! Jack said we should forget it and go straight to the gate. I went along with the decision until we got through check-in and then decided I couldn’t just sit ther, I’d better go back to immigration, leaving Jack with our carry-on luggage and breakfast. Turns out there was no problem at all —the date of entry was correct, no matter what the handwritten number on the visa said. But then I had to go through check-in again. Plenty of time, I thought, once I lnew I was good to go.
When we got to Dallas our connecting flight to Leon had a 3 hour delay. But I didn’t care, I was completely relaxed. Everything was in English, all systems familiar. I was home in the USA. And my children would be waiting for us whenever we arrived.