I spent two sleepness nights getting ready to go. Typical.
I expect to be able to sleep on the plane. Typical.
Nuclear 4 and I snuggle into our special two seater sleeping position, complete with legs twisted up by the windows and body parts as cushion extensions. Four times I drift off to sleep. Four times turbulence sends flight attendents about, ordering us to sit up and buckle. Not typical.
I arrive on Day 2 of travel, Thursday morning. Nuclear 1 gets everyone out of the house. I shower and slip naked under the duvet. I sleep through until Friday morning. If only this were typical. Every day. In every city.
Day 3 we visit a fair, with kilometers and kilometers of garage sale wares spread out on blankets. Pilled sweaters, chewed on board books, discolored plastic toys, water-stained VHS tape covers and fractured roller blades. All the 100% Swedes in our company think this is the neatest thing. What deals! What bargains! We walk by one family's blanket seasoned with rust-colored pasta. I never break stride. I never suggest that stopping is an option. The trip enters the surreal.
We visit Nuclear 1's parents. His mother is genuine, as in June Lockhart from the Lassie days. As his father rounds the corner to greet us, I witness a droop swing in his left shoulder. He drags his left leg a bit. The stroke did much more damage than I had thought. Mortality turned the corner. My heart twists.
Day 4 is a big business party. We arrive and are almost immediately separated, Swedish style. I have anxiety and therefore resulting hangovers at the most simple of social gatherings. So to me, these events are atomic. In an effort to get people to mingle, couples are drawn and quartered. I spend from 7 pm until 2 am in the company of people I have never met who because of my presence now feel compelled to speak something other than their native tongue. As the sixth person asks me if I speak Swedish at all, I lay my forehead on our dinner table and confess that I am a complete loser. I get a glimpse of my husband only long enough to notice that other women are laughing too hard in his presence. My table mate, the man to my left, is 70 years old and extolls the virtues of our president. The host, seated to my right, is the lone beacon. He describes account after bad account of how much his own kids hate him since passing through puberty's gate. He would be my best friend if I lived here. At 1 am, a drunken airline pilot invites me to the loft to dance to the pounding beat of bad European disco and my chest seizes. In .5 second I sympathize with how his wife would feel and try to imagine an escape route once up there. Nothing looks positive, so I continue the theme of the evening and confess ineptitude. In the taxi ride home I rock back and forth, thinking, "I don't belong here, I don't belong here." So very typical.
Day 5. Today was a very, very, very bad day.
Day 6. One day left.
Day 7. On the plane back to the States, the pilot announces that radar is down at Heathrow and we may be diverted to sit on a runway in Amsterdam. The kids are all sleeping and miss this announcement. I appreciate the small favor.