Friday, November 14, 2014

Jacob's homecoming was not what I envisioned

Since Jacob left on his mission, I've perused through stories  and a ton videos of families greeting their missionary at the airport trying to picture what it might be like for us when he comes home.  We even had the opportunity to watch, in person, at the Salt Lake City airport.  They have the perfect set up for a homecoming with the escalator acting as a stage for all to see the missionaries coming back to a large audience of family and friends waiting below by the baggage claim.  As our family was pulling luggage off the conveyor belt, I was watching the drama unfold with tears in my eyes because I was so happy for them. The joy those families were experiencing was soon going to be our family.

Fast forward to 2 weeks ago (time flies!) when it was our turn to have the wonderful airport experience with family, banners, cameras, video, tears, and lots of hugs.  But in true Whitaker form, nothing came together like the image in my head.  I should know by now to expect the unexpected!

All the family that came, arrived at different times.  My in-laws flew in the day before and my sister-in-law Tammy drove in later with her family.  Then it was back to the airport to get Joseph and Sarah.    The two who were missing were Rachel and Tammy's husband Dave  who couldn't come till after Jacob was home (we were at the airport a lot).

We had known for some time that Jacob's flight was to get in at 12:50.  I knew it would be emotional, so in preparation, I asked Uncle Dave (Tammy's husband) to take pictures at the airport because he is a wonderful photographer.  I knew he would catch the moment perfectly.  Unfortunately, he had to work and would be arriving too late.  So I asked a couple of photographer friends if they could take pictures at the airport.  Unfortunately, neither one could do it.  I decided to just go with the flow.  Everyone has cameras in their phones anyway right?  Plus one of the cousins, Alex, was following in his father's photographic footsteps.  Surely, we'll get some good pictures.

Then I worked on the all important banner.  It's like a great big public greeting card telling your missionary how you feel and sharing with everyone that he was serving the Lord.  I had to go to several stores just to find the banner paper (odd!).  I also got posters for all the kids to make signs as well.  I then spent a good portion of my day drawing and painting the large banner that would be the first thing Jacob (or anyone) would see coming off the escalator.  When it was done, I rolled it up and put it on the cabinet next to the front door (first mistake).

The day arrives, I take Roxie to the "doggie daycare" and Joseph takes the cars to the car wash.  While we are gone, everyone gets ready and the kids make their signs to hold in the airport plus one big banner that would be put on the outside of the house.  I had actually hoped to have welcome home signs taped to the street signs leading up to our street, but of course that never happened.  When I get home, they were frantically finishing their signs because Jacob's plane would be early! We quickly finished and started putting up the banner on the house when Joseph called from the car wash to tell us that the airline had bumped up the time even more!!  By the time he came back, they had bumped it up a third time making it a whole 45 minutes earlier than we had planned!!

At this point, it was pure chaos.  We determined to send at least one car first so at least someone would be there when he arrived.   So those who were fully dressed went in the first car.  I was still helping to get the banner on the house.  Tammy doesn't drive in LA traffic, so I drove her Suburban.  As I was about to drive away I remembered the banner I painted.  Joseph wasn't in his car so I asked him to go back in and grab it, then drove away (mistake number two).  He called and said he couldn't find it so he just left (he didn't know it was rolled up).  I swung back around, cause I knew where it was then realized my keys were in the first car that left.  Tammy thought that maybe a back door would be unlocked but I realized in the grand scheme of things, I would rather be there to see him come off the escalator than be there late because of a banner.  So we left.

It was not a pleasant ride.  I was crushed that this had become so stressful, I didn't have my banner, and the worst was my vision of Jacob alone at the airport.  Esther was in our car pestering me with questions (she does that when she's excited about something) till I finally threatened her into silence.  I knew at any moment I could lose control and become a big puddle.  Tammy has known me long enough that she didn't say anything even though she was texting the other cars about flight times.  Finally, when there was good news, she spoke up to say that they pushed the plane back 15 minutes.  The bad thing was that we were still dealing with lunch time traffic, on Pacific Coast Highway in a Suburban.

We finally arrive at the airport to an absolute  I've never seen such bad traffic at LAX.  The parking was full too.  After finally parking, we ran all the way to the terminal.  While inside, we couldn't find them in the meeting spot so we headed to baggage claim.  The crowd of them were standing next to a carousel  with these weird looks on their faces.  As I ran up to them, everyone tells me he isn't there, or he was held up.  But I could tell they were lying and demanded they tell me where he is.  Joseph was merciful and said he was hiding behind one of the pillars outside.  I'm thinking: What?!  I don't think so!!  So I started running in his direction and he came out from hiding.  I flung my arms around him so tight it even surprised me.  That's when I became a puddle.  The banner didn't matter anymore.  I apologized to him for being late but I was just so grateful to see him in person that all my stress and worry just disappeared.  After I finally let him go, and cleaned up my face, there were hugs and pictures all around.

It turns out that the first group actually made it there in time but thought they were late.  So as they were searching for Jacob, Matthew was the only one at the welcome spot.  He was the first person Jacob saw.  And it turned out he didn't come down the escalator but down the long hall right next to it (can't wait till Delta finishes their construction so there will be some order!!)  Right after that, Dad found him, then one by one the rest of the crowd trickled in.  So instead of one grand cheer, he got a much longer welcome home.  That's better, right?

I didn't let my banner go to waste.  I've had it on the garage door for the last two weeks.

Sibling/cousin love!!
At least he had some great signs!

When we got home, the "house" banner had blown into the bushes.
But the boys held it up for Jacob to run through like the welcoming of a football player.
It's called being flexible.
Late lunch at Stacked
Jacob was still considered a missionary when he came home and needed to be officially "released".  But the Stake President couldn't come because of other obligations.  So Jacob stayed in his suit, we watched family videos instead of TV, and kept the radio off (all things within the missionary bounds).  To kill some time, Joseph took him to the Verizon store to get him a phone.  And since Jacob is still a missionary, he starts a conversation with the tech helping them.  "Have you ever seen a name tag like this?" "Yes"  "Did you get to talk to the missionaries?"  "yes"  "Did you have a good conversation?"  By then they had to turn their attention back to the phone, but it was certainly evident that my shy Jacob had learned to be bold.

When President Gazdik came over to the house, he privately interviewed Jacob, then with all of us around he shook his hand and offered him his certificate.  He then shared just one thing from the interview that he felt impressed with.  He had asked Jacob what he had learned.  His response was that he had learned how to be happy.  How wonderful!  He had learned that though living the gospel and serving others  instead of living for oneself brought happiness.  Ummm...can I send the kids at home now?
He is officially released. 
Dave got here safely and....
Rachel is the very last one to arrive.
All my babies together again!
Life is good!
Moral of the story:  Life is seldom what you expect it to be but it certainly makes a good story!

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