Come Away with Me

Come Away with Me

The twilight sky faded to black as I stood, nose pressed against the window, watching our flight to Zurich take off without us. A wave of nausea swept over me, obliterating the friendly buzz of champagne from the airport lounge.

Tears poured down my face as I staggered to a chair, reeling as if I’d been sucker-punched in the belly. How did this happen? How did we miss this flight? We arrived two hours ahead of time, we checked in at the gate, we listened for all the announcements. They said boarding was delayed. We came back to the gate close to the departure time, running once we saw the deserted waiting area. We begged and pleaded, but our pleas were met with a firm German “nein” from the flight crew.

The plane continued to sit at the gate for several more minutes after we were denied entry, adding insult to injury. It lingered on the runway as I fervently prayed for a non-lifethreatening  passenger medical event or a mechanical difficulty. No such luck.

With quick, perfunctory movements, the German-trained airline staff handed us a slip of paper with a phone number on it, packed up their rolling suitcases, and left us alone at the gate, sitting in stunned silence.

A few minutes later, my husband desperately tried to rebook with Expedia while I dialed the German airline’s central phone number over and over again to no avail. We began roaming the international terminal, looking for something, anything that would get us to Europe. We spotted a 9 PM flight to Paris and hightailed it to the gate only to find it completely booked.

Slowly, despondently, we made our way to the BART station, called my parents, and headed back home. Two unused nonrefundable tickets to Europe and one free glass of champagne equals the world’s most expensive airport date.

As we sat side by side on the stale BART train, tossing ideas back and forth about how to salvage our tenth anniversary trip, I spotted a guy clipping his fingernails in the seat next to us. As they flicked off his fingers and hit the floor, I thought, “Wow. New low.”

We needed this trip. We’ve been living with my parents for the past six months after weathering a complicated and somewhat traumatic cross-country move. We’ve been enduring the financial stress of taking a new job with a pay cut, the complexities of living with family, and the intensity of uprooting our life on one side of the country and trying to establish it on the opposite coast.

We scrimped and saved and scoured the internet for flight deals. We arranged childcare, babysitters, and packed our luggage in perfectly proportioned carry-on bags. We had stacks of books, a list of conversations we had started but never had time to finish, and we were in desperate need of some time to ourselves.

The next day, after hearing our sad tale, a family friend offered us her remote lake cottage, so we scooped up our dog, hit the grocery store, and made our way deep into California’s Mariposa County for a few days of hiking, wineries, and time together.

Windows down, music blasting, the suburbs receded in the rearview mirror, giving way to an open road lined with almond orchards. Further inland, the fields and orchards yielded to golden grass and scrubby oak trees sparsely dotting rolling hills. As we left civilization behind, I felt my soul unwind, the tension of our daily life melting away as five free days without obligation or responsibility stretched before us.

He reached across to hold my hand, and we looked at each other, silently making peace with this change in our plans. This was going to be a good thing. Somehow, whether we liked it or not, this is what we needed.

We slept in and went on long walks, talking about everything and nothing. We listened to podcasts, discussed our future, and prayed for our families. We kicked around business ideas for the many companies he’d like to start someday. We drank wine at sunset, listening to the wind in the trees as the fiery ball of orange sank slowly below the horizon.

He cooked me breakfast, lunch, and dinner using the BBC’s top 20 recipes of all time, making me fall in love with him all over again. He indulged his therapeutic bread-making hobby (my favorite of all his many hobbies). I made my way through a big stack of books, lingering over each one without the pressure to fold laundry or make dinner.

One day, we made sandwiches on homemade bread and wound our way up the narrow, curving road to Yosemite. We fell silent as we contemplated the majestic stone cliffs contrasted with the mellow, verdant pastures of the valley floor. As we made good use of our National Parks pass, I asked God if we could please see a bear.

A fine, cool mist coated our goose-pimpled arms as we surveyed the mighty thundering of Yosemite Falls, watching in awe as walls of water crashed into the rocky river, tumbling fiercely downstream. We trekked up miles of hairpin trails to glimpse the top of the waterfall, standing hand in hand in awestruck worship in the cathedral of nature.

On our way out of the park, my husband suddenly swerved to the side of the road and jumped out of the car shoeless, running toward an open field. There they were, not one, but three delicious bears, a mama and two cubs. My happiness was complete.

We stopped for an icy cold beer and crispy sweet potato fries at California’s oldest saloon. It was the best day ever.

Yes. This is exactly what we needed.

I don’t care where I am, so long as I’m with him. When we locked eyes ten years ago, my heart skipped twelve beats. My palms started sweating, and I began babbling a million miles a minute, which is what I do when I’m nervous. He was so tall and handsome, so calm and collected. Right then, I knew I’d met my match.

Ten years, a child, a dog, a law degree, and several jobs later, he still makes my heart beat faster when he walks in the door. He’s everything I never knew I always wanted, even when he makes me boiling mad or staggeringly irritated.

He’s my person, and I’ll take scrub-brush California with him over a thousand trips to the Swiss Alps. Come away with me, dearest. I need only you.


  • Laura Thomas
    Posted at 19:25h, 20 October Reply

    what a lovely trip, Natalie!!! So happy you are making these wonderful memories together!! xoxo

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