It’s been 2 weeks exactly since Lara went back to Germany…and it’s time for me to complete a couple of final posts. I’ve been putting off re-living the day she left… for obvious reasons…. but here goes….
Lara’s last 24 hours in Arizona were filled with laughter and tears… and more laughter and more tears. We all knew this time was going to come but I’m not sure if we knew how difficult it was going to be. On Friday, June 1, Lara spent the day packing. She came with 1 suitcase and left with 2! We got her a suitcase for her birthday because shipping her extra things home was going to cost more than taking an extra suitcase on the airplane for $60. She had to decide if some things were actually going to make the trip home, like a couple of books. And she left a few things here… like her homecoming dance dress. She said she would get it next time she comes back. I don’t think she would be wearing it much in Germany anyway. 🙂
We were able to take a break mid-afternoon so we could bring Lara’s mom, Ana, and her friend, Gisela, to Lara’s favorite place to east… WENDY’S! From the first time Lara went there, she was hooked. And I don’t think it was so much for the food as it was for the soda machine. Yep… the $1-million dollar soda machine that offers 103 different kinds of soda! The Wendy’s closest to our home has one and it’s a hit with everyone! Of course, we had to get a picture of Lara by her favorite machine! Her favorite things to eat there… chicken nuggets or a Caesar Chicken Go Wrap, the fries of course and a chocolate Frosty. She even liked what we call an “American Teen thing”…. dipping french fries into a Frosty! I don’t care for it but for some reason, it’s liked by many teenagers!!!
That night, Lara and Brittany gathered with friends at Jack’s house. It was the last time their group of friends could hang out and be silly. At first they were planning an all-nighter and wanted to camp out in Jack’s backyard. But both Ana, Lara’s mom, and I advised her that the next day was going to be very long and emotional and she should get some sleep. After several hours at Jack’s house, they decided to go to iHop (International House of Pancakes) for a very late meal. The funny thing was they went dressed up in costumes! Jack’s mom, Becky, pulled out Halloween costumes and they put on the strangest combinations of clothes! When they got to the Restaurant, the server said, “Should I even ask what you are doing?” They told her that Lara was leaving for Germany the next day. The Server said, “Is this a German tradition?” and they all laughed. Lara’s reaction was, “No, this is only something crazy Americans do!” She’s kind of right, isn’t she? Especially with this group of kids! They’ve really learned how to think outside-the-box with all the antics they do with YoungLife!
We all got up early the next morning so we’d have plenty of time at the airport. I was doing fine getting ready in my room… up until I walked downstairs. It hit me at that moment that it was going to be time to say good-bye. Our son Travis had to go to work and couldn’t ride along to the airport so Lara and Travis had to say good-bye here. That was my first jolt of tears… and it was’t easy to stop. I didn’t want Lara to see me cry just yet so I walked to the other side of the house. A few minutes later, two carloads of her friends arrived at the house. Morgan’s mother came along to drive one of the cars because she was worried the kids would be too upset to drive home after Lara left.
When we got to the terminal, all the kids were sitting together. Lara, Ana and I went to the ticket counter to check-in. We also wanted to request a pass for Ana to be able to walk Lara to the gate. For days, I was worried about everyone saying goodbye to her and then her having to sit at the gate, waiting for her plane, by herself. when we walked back to the kids, there they were standing off in the distance holding a bright yellow banner that read, “Goodbye” (with the Goodbye scratched out)… and then “See you Soon, Lara”. Ana, Lara and I just burst into tears… and then the kids did too. I knew that was the end of trying to hold in the tears. You can see our red eyes in the pictures Ana took right after that.
We gathered our emotions and decided to move further into the terminal. We took up an entire section of seats. That’s when the kids started writing messages to Lara on the banner so she could take it back with her. I couldn’t tell you what the messages were, because I couldn’t bring myself to read them. After the banner was signed, Ana folded it several times to fit it in her suitcase. A memory forever for Lara.
Soon Ana said it was time for Lara to go through security and head towards the gate. We walked her as far as we could go and then the hugs and tears started. Travelers all around us were watching as about 14 people were just hugging and crying. The third to the last person to say goodbye was Brittany. The second to last person was Terry. I was the last one. And as we held each other and cried, I think everyone else cried even more. We let her leave and watched her walk down the lane for the security checkpoint. As she walked around the final corner, we knew it was time to go home… with one less friend and family member by our side.
There’s really only one more Blog post to write… the final words from me to close this chapter of our lives. I started the Blog to share the experience of being a Host Mother to an Exchange Student living half way around the world, away from her family and friends. The last post is a time for me to express my feelings after this 10-month adventure. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures!