In December, Dave flew from Germany to the states for work. While this wasn’t easy, it turned out to be(or least feel) very safe. He had very few co-passengers on his plane. He had a whole row to himself! And the flight attendants were helpful, courteous and reassuring. He was so impressed by the cleanliness and safety standards.

He made it to his destination safely. His training course had equally well planned and careful facilities. He tested negative for COVID every step of the way. He even made it to Roswell to see his mom, and our son Cole, over Christmas. It was a bright light during the dark days of the pandemic.

His travel went so well, so smoothly, so safe, so COVID-free, that when Soren called asking for help, I said “yes”. I have a whole long diatribe about women in the workplace, maternity leave, and the damage pregnancy does to not only a woman’s career, but also her retirement savings. However. I try not to talk politics. Suffice it to say Lindsay had zero maternity leave at her company when she gave birth to Declan. After taking all the vacation, disability, and unpaid time off she could, she felt forced to quit.

I am extremely proud of all my hard-working kids. Not a single one of them works an 8-hour day. They all work more. Frequently a lot more. It is the American way. A way I question more & more as I watch the Europeans around me enjoy life. Lindsay’s, 10+ hour days were untenable with a baby. Even with her & Soren splitting their days, their time caring for Declan. She quit her job and happily parented Declan at home for a year.

Then, right as she was looking for new work, the Pandemic hit. Finding a job was harder than ever. Finding daycare went from hard, to a nightmare. Eventually she landed on a completely new career path in realty. Now all she needed was a part-time nanny. A need they soon found was impossible to fill.

In comes mom to the rescue, or rather, Tess. Tess who doesn’t like kids. Or babies. Tess who is in school. Online school. Tess who is high risk. My heart beat so fast with just the request. But. Dave’s travel had been so safe. We’ve been home for a year. Tess is young. It is her life. Her choice. Plus, really, I was sure she’d say no. Declan is a baby after all.

Tess said YES! Unequivocally, immediately, resoundingly, YES! Because. If you’d spent even a minute with Declan over video phone, you’d know. Declan is not any baby. He is magical! Special. Amazing. Funny. Who wouldn’t want to spend their days taking care of him? Even Tess couldn’t say no.

With Tess’ yes on the table, the planning started. Tickets are pretty inexpensive right now, no one is flying. I put her on the easiest flight, from Stuttgart, through Amsterdam, to the US. The rules are changing weekly, sometimes daily, and I watched the news like a hawk. Sure enough, the Netherlands changed testing requirements days before Tess was to depart.

It was a given that Tess would need a negative COVID test to fly. The rule had been a test taken 72-hours before. It’s a little tricky to get the test, and the results, in that time frame. We’d found that with Dave’s flight home. But I’d scheduled her flight on a Thursday so it wouldn’t be an issue. However. Amsterdams Schiphol airport added a 2nd test requirement.

Tess now also needed a 4-hour rapid COVID test pre-boarding. Her flight was at 6 a.m.. It was an impossible task. A purposeful impossible task. The Netherlands is actively avoiding the new strains, without actually closing borders. I cannot blame them. I changed Tess’ flights.

Instead of flying from Stuttgart, where all US-bound flights fly through Amsterdam, she departed from Frankfurt. A 2-hour drive from home. A day later, but a Friday is still good for a 72-hour test.

We took her test on a Wednesday. Standing outside in a socially distanced line of masked people, all of us freezing in the snow. The line was all foreigners. All trying to get home. I quickly made friends with the people near me. I’d forgotten how easily I made a friends. I’ve had a hard time in Germany, but now, in a line of other foreigners, I made new best friends in minutes. I may have been cold, but I was not lonely.

Tess went into the tent for the test alone. I did not need a test. I’ve been only in my house, and my woods, and the store for less than 15 minutes at a time. Plus, I wasn’t flying. The thought of traveling terrified me. It terrified me for Tess!

Her test was over in seconds. She came out half crying, half laughing. She too had made a new friend, but her nose was in pain. Poor Tess has a slightly crooked, really narrow nose. There was even blood! But it was over and she was one step closer to Declan.

The next day we got her negative results. She finished packing her suitcase, much to the dismay of Mochi (the cat). We printed out her attestion that she was negative and symptom free, and left for the Frankfurt airport early Friday morning.

Our autobahns have been a dream ever since the pandemic hit. No traffic. Most people are working from home. Nowhere to go. No travel allowed. We flew down the road, making record time. Until we hit construction. And an accident. And construction. And the minutes to Tess’ flight ticked by.

We got to the airport with only an hour and a half till take-off. The counter for check-in was closed. She grabbed her carry-on and backpack and ran to security. I kept the big suitcase filled with German treats for her brother, Lindsay & Declan. She got stopped at security.

Tess had left her laptop in her backpack. The xray had picked it up as a bomb. She had to wait for the bomb expert to diffuse. When he finally got there, almost a half hour later, he took his time. Careful. As he should be with a bomb. Except.

“It is a laptop.” He said as he pulled her laptop from her backpack. Mortified, and highly anxious to catch her flight, Tess took her laptop, backpack, carry-on and raced to passport control. Where the line had built up as controllers switched shifts. Finally through that line she raced to the last gate on the concourse. Only to watch her plane pull away from the gate.

Dripping sweat, breathing heavily, double masked, she turned pleading eyes to the gate agent. A gate agent who worked wonders and got her on the next flight out, keeping her upgraded seats. The next flight on the next day. Out of Frankfurt, two hours from home.

While Tess negotiated her way out of the airport, made difficult because she’d never actually flown anywhere. So difficult that border control called in the police to verify her story, because, after all, there was no immigration stamp in her passport. While Tess dealt with more security, I searched for the best place to get a new COVID test.

Luckily Frankfurt airport had testing facilities on site. Super easy, super convenient, super fast, and super gentle. Tess’ nose didn’t hurt at all! By the time we got back home, I had her results and we were able to relax a little and enjoy our girl an extra night.

I couldn’t take an extra day off, so Dave & Dane took her to Frankfurt early Saturday morning. I cried a little as I hugged her goodbye, and then snuggled up with Mochi who was crying cat tears of her own.

Tess’ third attempt at a flight to the states went beyond smooth. She sailed through security, passport control, onto her flight. Her flight attendants were even more lovely than Dave’s. She got a 2nd dinner “it’s delicious!”, free WiFi, animal documentaries galore (her new favorite) and a row to herself. She felt safe, secure and pampered.

Atlanta was a little scary. There were some people without masks, but she squirreled herself away at the end of the terminal, away from people, until boarding time. She again had a row to herself, amazing flight attendants, and a quick flight to Columbus. Her brother, being a brother, met her at the curb, not paying for parking, or coming in the airport to greet her. It was safer that way, he said. She’s a big girl, he said.

After more than 24 hours of travel, really 48 if you count all of Fridays troubles, Tess fell right into bed. In the morning she woke to baby noises. Lindsay had worried Declan wouldn’t like her. After all, he’s grown up in a pandemic. Other people are just moving pictures on a phone. Lindsay needn’t have worried. Declan took one look at Tess and ran into her arms. Best friends for life.