Wednesday morning I shower, but since our clothes are vacuum packed in the suitcase and we are still apprehensive about whether our luggage will fit in the car, I get to return to my same clothes. My favorite. Charles accompanies me to the airport to contact Renault again. They have a remote office so the kind information ladies call again for us. We wait 15 minutes then are driven to pick up our car. Car is very small, but has seven seats. I drive around the parking lot for a while since I haven't driven a stick shift for years, but then feel able to follow him back to our hotel with the grinding gears only making the car smell a little bit bad. We load up the car and see that we either have to sit on laps or Charles and Matthew will have to take the train. They go to the airport to see about that while I try to find my way over there. I paid extra for GPS and it had been working when I picked up the car, but then with all of the packing and jostling something had been bumped and I couldn't get it to turn on. After a short 10 minute relationship I was already completely dependent! How could I get back to the airport? I hesitantly found my way over there and pulled over to talk to Matthew. A security parking person made me move so I pulled up a little and we tried to talk again. I was mostly worried about the GPS not working so when the very large bus started honking at me and I had to move, we hadn't quite talked out our plan for the day. I was still stressed about using the clutch, French traffic, having no idea where I was, etc. so I was pulled into some kind of vortex and had driven for quite some time before I could find a place to pull over. We then fiddled with the GPS for a while and finally got it to work. Yea! Ella suggested we return to the airport to talk to daddy, but I thought they had probably gone to the train since it had been awhile. I decided to head out and meet them later at the house. We had to get gasoline and no one had eaten anything so we stopped and nervously waded through those transactions. I realized that I had Matthew and Charles' passports, but they had all of the euros. I asked at the convenience store if I could get some cash with my debit card since I could see that I had a toll road ahead of me. They wouldn't, but assured me that I could use my credit card at the toll booth. We finally relax as the sweet GPS lady tells us where to turn and really feel like we are on our way. The first toll booth I pull out my credit card. It doesn't work. Try another card. It doesn't work. My debit card. No luck. Call the attendant, "Je n'ai pas l'argent." I have no money. She comes over looking completely annoyed, cars are honking at me (am I supposed to run through the gate people?), and am told to pull over and go into the transportation building. I go in, need my passport in the car, go in again, sign my life away. We're on our way again. Another toll booth. Just take a ticket which I can handle. Another toll booth. Talk to attendant, pull over and go into building, up stairs, sign my life away. Back to regular roads. We are getting closer! Drive around. GPS betraying me by telling me to go the wrong way on a one-way street. Street we live on about three feet wide. Parking down the hill. Bringing the luggage in several trips up the hill. Half expecting Matthew and Charles to be there before us since our trip took longer than we expected, but no. Leaving the kids while I find food since I am afraid of stores closing early, but now quite afraid of round abouts so just walking and walking and walking. Find a store, make sure I can use my credit card, buy only what I can carry, walking, walking, walking home. Boys still not there and starting to worry. Did they need their passports? Do they know the address? I tell Ella to start some pasta since it is now dinnertime and I will go look for the menfolk. First I go to the train station closest to our house. No one speaks English, but I communicate that I am looking for my husband and son. Well, guess what -- there is a local train strike. Lovely. So I wait to see if they come on a bus, but no. I then find another train station, but when my GPS friend tells me I have arrived at my destination I can't see any building at all and figure she is wrong. The line of cars behind me as well as the complete darkness also helps me make the decision to not investigate too closely. I then decide to drive to the Toulon train station. That takes longer than I think it should, so instead of parking there I just drive slowly along the front looking closely at everyone standing outside. No sign of them, but I figure that I have been gone so long they are probably at the house by now. I drive home, find a parking space far, far away and approach the house hoping Matthew and Charles are there and everyone has saved me some dinner. Open the door and no boys and it turns out that the stove doesn't turn on. The girls eat some bread and I begin to despair. We have a phone, but I don't know the number. We have computers, but I can't get the internet to work. I have no idea if the boys even ever left the airport. I try to call my parents, but realize later I was using the wrong country code. I need to get the little kids to bed, but don't want to unpack or anything just in case I need to accompany the body bags to the U.S. in the next few days. I think about going to the police, calling the airport, etc. and I keep hearing them tell me, "Il est mort." I pray and pray, wander around outside thinking they might know the street, but not the house number, make a little sign for the door and despair some more. We make up beds, put babies to sleep, sit on the couch in a discouraged stupor. How will I sleep not knowing where they are? I should have gone back to the airport, we should have found out the phone number to our house before we left the U.S., I should have given them their passports, I shouldn't have been more stressed about the GPS working than finding out what our plans were before the bus ran me down. I started to plan what I would do in the morning when I heard a noise at the door and in they walked after 10 p.m. I was crying in relief -- I had never been so happy to see anyone! And they were hungry and tired. Their journey from house to house had taken 52 hours. But as I pointed out, it is still much better than John Adams' trek, right? I may or may not relate their story. I have been writing too long already.
So as I sit here on Thursday morning wearing the same clothes in which I left my house on Monday, let us look on the bright side: We are all together safe and sound; worrying pays off since nothing I actually worried about happening happened; and after surviving the journey in the wilderness it must follow that there is only promised land ahead. (crossing fingers)