Last Saturday, I was up bright and early, as it was the day Mr Moi was coming home. I was going to drive our Brand New Car to the airport to pick him up. I was excited.
In order to make time pass more quickly, I called my mum to have a natter. Time did indeed pass quickly – I looked at the clock mid-conversation and realised I’d be leaving in half an hour. At the same time, Le Sproglette started to get a little whingey, and I realised I’d neglected to give her breakfast.
After shoving her beloved WeetBix down her throat (she eats two every morning) (and she cries when her breakfast finishes), we quickly dressed. I even put on a little make-up so that I’d look extra nice for my returning husband. Five nights alone with the baby in a new city with no friends is a Long. Time.
We arrived at the airport two minutes after the plane’s scheduled landing, and I quickly unloaded the stroller and the baby, and we made our way inside. (Darwin is a very small airport. If we could clear customs in the former Soviet Union in 20 minutes at times, then I expected that one could practically walk off the plane into the carpark in Darwin).
I walked in, looking up at the monitor as I entered. There were two flights landed – one from Kuwait at 9:00am, and Mr Moi’s plane.
“Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “Strange that Darwin has a direct flight from Kuwait.” *
When I looked away from the monitor and took in the scene in front of me, I was in shock. There were about 100 women and children crowded around the small waiting area, staring at the door that spits international arrivals into the arrivals hall.
Some were holding balloons. Some were holding signs. One was holding a teddy bear. There were kids wearing the Australian flag like a cape. And they were all dressed in their best. Some in clothes that had no right being worn at 9am on a Saturday morning (unless you’re just coming home from the night before). They were waiting for a planeful of Army folk who’d just returned home from Iraq (and may I say: fighting there a battle which most of Australia didn’t want them to fight).
I was embarrassed on a couple of levels. Firstly, that I’d been upset that Mr Moi had been away for six days, while these women were waiting for men who’d been away for four months. I was also embarrassed because I was only wearing a country shirt and a denim skirt and looked terribly out of place, even with my touch of makeup. I rang Mr Moi and asked how long it would take him to go through customs. He said about half an hour, so I walked off to the coffee shop and waited.
While I waited, I watched these women welcoming back the men in their lives.
There was the young woman in skinny jeans and killer stilettoes; crop topped. She looked like she’d just come from a club. But her stilettoes ensured her tired man didn’t have to bend far to kiss and hug her hello.
Then there was the man who, as soon as he walked through the door, was almost bowled over by a tiny pink-and-blonde bundle. His daughter, about three years old, took a running leap into his arms and wouldn’t let go. He couldn’t move; he was holding too tight to his daughter to push the trolley. His wife came over to him, crying, but their daughter would’t let go. When she finally did, his wife buried her face on his shoulder and cried. The little girl came running back to her daddy, waving a canvas at him. I later saw it said, “Welcome Home Daddy”.
Finally, there was the uncertain lady who looked about my age. She looked worn out, tired. In her arms, she was carrying a baby boy, wrapped up well despite the heat outside. He looked about one week old. Her husband was one of the last people to emerge. She gave him a kiss, but not a cuddle, because her arms were full. The man looked shocked, obviously overcome by seeing his first child, for the first time. All born, all there. I’m sure he felt every possible emotion, all at once. He took his baby into his arms, but seemed so overcome that he handed the baby back after a minute.
Viewing this scene through my haze of sleep deprivation (made worse by being home alone), I was touched. I got rather emotional (but I didn’t cry). When the crowd mostly dispersed, I moved back over to the waiting area and pulled Le Sproglette out of the stroller onto my lap, all the while looking at the door that spits people into the arrivals hall.
A senior Army bloke walked over to me, looking concerned.
“Are you still waiting?” he asked.
“Uh, NO! I’m just waiting for my husband, who’s been away. On BUSINESS. Not in Iraq. Not in the army.” Blunder blunder etc.
Finally Mr Moi came into the arrivals hall. And even though it was only six days and not four months since I’d last seen him, I was still very happy to see him. Even if I was I was just wearing a country shirt and a denim skirt.
* Firstly, it was a charter flight. And secondly, Darwin is an Defence Force town. And no, Mr Moi isn’t in the Defence Forces.