Our journey home started out a little rocky. About an hour before our ride to the airport in Natal (2 1/2 hours away) arrived, Max got a migraine. He went down fast and hard, barely able to get up from the bed, and pretty nauseous. His migraines (which, thankfully, are infrequent) follow a predictable pattern: intense suffering, followed by getting sick, then he sleeps and starts to feel better. So I was finishing packing and getting ready, and hoping the poor child would puke before the car arrived. And the migraine complied. He fortunately had time for a shower and we had time to stop at a pharmacy to pick up some medicine and then he slept most of the way to Natal.
At the airport, there was some sort of glitch and Max could only be checked in to Rio, while the rest of us got our boarding passes through to San Francisco. It didn’t seem like too big of a deal, but I did alert my sister-in-law, Martina, in case we got stuck in Rio and had to go bunk with my nephew Leo for the night. Which almost happened. When we arrived in Rio, someone from Delta was waiting at the gate for us and took us to a desk to try to resolve Max’s check-in issues. Unfortunately, the people ahead of us were dealing with some serious travel complications (one passport name change that was precluding travel, one inexplicably canceled US visa), so we had to wait longer than was comfortable with our tight connection.
Once we all got checked in, we hurried over to Immigration and handed over our passports for one final stamp. Should be easy, Americans going back to America. However, since the boys and I are dual citizens, they needed our Brazilian passports, too. Not a problem, I had them, and they were fully up to date. (Sidebar – when I was 18, I let my Brazilian passport expire while living in Brazil and had to basically bribe my way out of the country. A mistake I will never make again.)
The Immigration agent, a very friendly man, but totally unmoved by our panic that our flight was in the final stages of boarding, explained to me that he simply needed a supervisor to sign off in order to, “liberar os meninos”. I raised an eyebrow, as that means “free the children” in English and I had not previously been under the impression that the Brazilian government might have the ability to keep the boys in the country. But I wasn’t going to argue with the guy, so we waited another excruciating five minutes while he went into a back room with our passports to get the necessary approvals.
Back in possession of our passports (and apparently, of our children), we raced through the serpentine path of the Duty Free store that has somehow become the ubiquitous “Exit Through the Gift Shop” of international airports. Henry’s pack rat backpack had somehow opened up, and he was starting to leave a trail, so another few precious minutes were taken up picking up bits and getting the thing to close again. Max sprinted ahead to the gate in the hopes that the doors hadn’t closed yet.
Luckily, they were waiting for us. But poor Max got flagged for a random security screen, so he and I had to follow an agent to another separate area for them to check us and everything we were carrying. I was starting to wonder if Max was going to make it out of Brazil after all. In the end, we passed the security screening and were the very last people to board the plane, sweaty and very thirsty, just the way one wants to begin a nine hour international flight.
The rest of the trip was less eventful, and we arrived in San Francisco at the tail end of a heat wave, which seemed fitting, as we had flown into a heat wave in Portugal to kick off this grand adventure.
*I added an asterisk because although we are back in the US, we aren’t quite settled yet. We’re traveling to Montana, Washington state, and Michigan this summer, before we finally stop (at least for now).