As our plane began the descent to Miami, we braced ourselves for the next stage of the trip. We had a two hour layover in which we needed to make it through customs, complete immigration, eat, and change the girls into winter clothing. Our poor babies were leaving their Caribbean home to come to their new home in Tennessee in mid-December. We had to do all of this, and make it from one end of the huge Miami airport to the other in order to catch our flight to Nashville.
Our airplane arrived on time and landed without incident. Once we came to a stop however, we were notified that we would not be able to disembark. There was as security issue with another airplane and we would be unable to dock until it was settled. As the minutes stretched on and on, the girls became restless. Undoubtedly, they were hungry and tired as it was late evening and we had hardly eaten anything of substance for hours.
They were not the only ones cranky and anxious. All around us people were growing increasingly agitated by the delay and the flight attendants were struggling to keep various individuals in their seats. Michael and I were constantly checking our watches. We ended up sitting on the tarmac for an hour. We stood to disembark and I felt a warm wetness creep down my side as Roseline’s diaper failed. We were both soaking wet with her urine. As soon as we were off the plane and out of the way, I laid her down on the carpet and changed her as quickly as I could and we began the mad dash against the clock to accomplish all that lay before us in time to make the flight home. It was going to be close and even if everything went right, we knew we still might not make it.
I began to pray. I could not stand the thought of being away for another night or the disappointment my other three children would face if they were to awaken the next morning to meet their long awaited sisters and find us still missing. We literally ran with our daughters in our arms. I carried my backpack, and Roseline’s diaper bag. Michael carried his backpack, Claudine and her backpack as well.
When we arrived at customs we were met by a sea of people. The lines seemed to stretch to infinity. Before us was another adoptive family. A security guard was stubbornly insisting they go through the long lines for non-citizens. I had been told previously that this was not necessary and against Michael’s protest that it would never work I quietly headed to one of the shorter lines for American citizens. We held our breath as the officer took our passports and paperwork. Then, with absolutely no drama whatsoever, he escorted us into immigration and handed our paperwork to the officer there.
We looked around at the room full of people, checked our watches and wondered again if we would ever make it. Within moments, the officer called us to the desk. I thought perhaps there was something wrong with the paperwork because it happened so fast. Instead, he smiled and handed us the visas and said to the girls, “Welcome to the United States of America.”
We expressed our thanks and bolted from the room to head to the security lines. We rounded the corner and our hearts sank. The lines were huge. Praying all the time, we picked the shortest one and stood waiting. In just a few moments a woman guard began to walk down the line and when she reached us, she asked to see our papers and tickets. After glancing at them, she motioned for us to go to the side where there was a virtually empty line reserved for the handicapped. We walked past all the waiting travelers and made it through security in record time.
We still had to claim and recheck our baggage and make it to the other side of the airport. Once again, we held the girls tightly and began to run. When we made it to the baggage claim, Michael stood to watch for our luggage while I took Claudine to the bathroom.
This was her very first experience with a modern, well equipped bathroom. When she finished toileting and the toilet self-flushed, both girls screamed and virtually “climbed” me. Then, as the realization of what just happened hit Claudine, she began to laugh out loud.
“If you think that is great,” I said, “just wait.”
We walked to the sink and she marvelled that when she put her hands in front of the faucet, the water flowed automatically. She put her hands in the water, and then out of the water. In the water. Out of the water. Then, the water became warm and she began to shout excitedly, “Dlo cho! Dlo cho!” (“Hot water! Hot water!”) It was the first time in her life she had washed with heated water.
“If you think that is great,” I told her, “Look at this!” I pointed to the trash can and explained that refuse was placed in the receptacle and when it was full, someone came and took the trash away. She was in awe.
Perhaps, dear reader, you are confused by this detail. You see, in Haiti, trash is an epidemic. For the most part, there is no organized trash removal which is part of the reason Haiti always smells like fire. Each night, people gather the trash from the day and burn it. If the trash is not burned, it gathers in huge piles along the edge of the roads or becomes another layer of “pavement”. For Claudine, the idea that it would simply be taken away was awesome indeed.
We rushed from the bathroom just as Michael retrieved the bags. Now we were layden with not only our previous burdens (still carrying the girs because they were too small and weak to move as quickly as we had to move) but both also pulled a suitcase along behind us as well. We moved as quickly as we could to recheck our bags. Then, we were off on a mad dash again. In a few moments however, we reached a place where we did not quite know where to go next. Again, an airport employee approached us and asked to see our tickets. She glanced at them and realized we were running out of time. She called another employee over to us and told her to quickly get us going in the right direction. This woman directed us to the final leg of our “airport marathon”. We took one look at our watches and ran. Then, at the exact moment we arrived at our gate, we heard the call to board the plane.
Claudine decided she needed to go to the bathroom again. There was one directly across from our gate so, Michael rushed her in there while I stood with Roseline and our bags. Afterwards, we walked up to present our tickets to the employee by the ramp to the plane. We were the very last passengers.
“We made it!” Michael said incredulously as we handed the man our tickets.
“It is a miracle.” I said.
The gentleman handed us our boarding passes and softly said, “Miracles still happen.”
And they do.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the LORD of hosts,
“ If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3: 10 – 11