The most hair-raising part of our adoption tale has not been shared, I just realized. Here you go. May you learn from our mistakes if you are embarking on an international adoption journey.
No one told us that we would need more than two hours on our Houston layover to make it through customs, immigration and security on our trip home from Colombia. We discovered this information as we were checking in for our flight from Bogota to Houston…. too late to make flight changes. Plus, we knew there would be a disappointed crowd at the Phoenix airport if we didn’t show up at 4:30 when scheduled. We had exactly 95 minutes between flights.
The plan was to hurry through our pit stops… not imagining that we would be reenacting the Joe Namath airport running commercial of old! We rushed past people to make it to the customs line. Thankfully the line for US citizens was considerably shorter than the line for visitors! The agent was thorough, but not entirely slow. She advised us that after clearing her booth we would have to wait for an immigration officer to take us to a secret room for clearance of Nora’s visa and her entry into America as its newest citizen. We divided to conquer at that point. I took Nora. Rick took the rest of the kids to gather luggage.
Seated in the immigration room, while three officers worked at their computers, Nora asked why we couldn’t go up to the counter. I told her that we were waiting for one of them to call her name. After ten agonizingly long minutes, one of the fine officers asked, “Nora, How old are you?” To which she replied, “Nora, How old are you?” I explained in Spanish that she needed to say her age. Thankfully the officer then asked her the same question in Spanish. To which she answered, “Catorce!” (14!!!) With a hushed voice I told her that this was highly importante and that she needed to obey the officer. Under her breath, she counted in English on her fingers until she got to seven, then she announced in a loud voice, “Tengo SEVEN.” Spanglish would have to do. Brother! She was fingerprinted and signed her name “Noro Crosby” on her form and we were on our way. (BTW, her passport application was signed Nora Crosdy. Her Passport was signed Nora Croby.) Thankfully we know who she is!
We scrambled downstairs to find the family waiting with two carts full of our luggage. After pushing each bag onto the re-check-in belt, I thought we were sitting pretty with 30 minutes to spare. I almost started crying when we reached the next floor and witnessed one of the longest security lines I’ve ever seen! We got in line and I started praying…. hard. Rick analyzed the situation and took matters into his own hands. He found a security-line guard and asked if we could be moved up. I was still praying hard. We wove our way around the maze until we came to the spot where Rick was standing by our guardian angel, and she opened the ropes to let us through, skipping about 60 or 70 people. I whispered “thank you” to her and to God. She then directed us to the shortest of six lines for the x-ray machines. Before she put the ropes back, she hollered, “Any more Elite Members in line?” We are not Elite members and I almost burst out laughing… but I restrained my hilarity at that moment.
At this point I told my boys to remove their belts and put them into their backpacks so we wouldn’t have to wait for them to re-dress. This was brilliant on my part for timing, but not so comfortable for my sons who had to hold their pants as they ran through the airport. After x-raying our bags, Rick took off with our boarding passes to run to the gate. Seriously, it was a 1/4 mile run. Larisa and Nora didn’t get their shoes put back on… we carried them and cleaned the airport floor with their socks.
We arrived at Gate E9 to discover that our flight had been moved to C33. If you have been to the Houston airport, you understand that all things are BIGGER in Texas. Good grief. The kind counter lady called the C33 desk to tell them we were on our way. To say that I’m not exactly fit for a 1/2 mile run would be an understatement. The family took off and I followed not quite as rapidly. Finally I flagged down a man driving a golf cart and requested immediate delivery to C33. Upon arrival, I jumped out of the cart to find my four children… but not my husband. The kids said, “He went back to look for YOU!”
At this point it was five minutes passed the scheduled take-off time and the ticket-taking lady regretfully replied, “We cannot hold the plane any longer.” Lacking grace and poise, I screamed down the terminal, “RIIIICCCCKKKK!” in my loudest voice…. twice. Half way between Rick and gate C33 there was a group of airport employees who also yelled, “RIIICCCKKK!” Thankfully, he turned around and started another 300 yard dash. As he passed the workers, they were chanting, “Run, Rick, Run!” I turned to the ticket-taking lady and informed her that we were ready to board and my husband would be arriving by the time she scanned his ticket. WHEW!
We rushed on the plane, the doors were closed and it started to taxi out before we were all seated in row 32. I have never been more relieved in my life.
In Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix were over 60 of our crazy friends waiting with signs and cheers. They had NO IDEA how close they were to greeting a Crosby-less plane! Again, God showed up in the details, for the 127th time.