It had been eighteen months since I last hugged my daughter. What a heart-wrenching, tear-filled day that was! Today my eyes would water once more, but this time they would be tears of joy. Our daughter was coming home! We had originally thought that her arrival day would be December 14, but transfers were three weeks late, so rather than being home before Christmas, she was coming on Jan. 3, two days before her younger sister’s wedding. So, naturally, I was a basket case!
“Are we taking the right exit?” I asked my husband, Wade.
“I hope this is the right one,” he replied, “or else it will take us clear around the airport and we’ll have to start over again.” Sure enough, we were heading around the loop once more. I was starting to get nervous.
“We’re going to miss her flight!” I said anxiously. “She’ll come off the plane and into the airport, and we won’t be there to meet her.” I had a habit of being late to things, and I knew Larissa was nervous that we would be late for this, too.
“We’ll be fine,” Wade reassured me. “We aren’t going to miss anything.”
Larissa had been serving in the Louisiana, Baton Rouge mission for the past year and a half. I remember thinking that our shy, timid, dainty little girl was the last child we had ever thought would embark on such an adventure. This is the child who, as a toddler, was afraid of everything: strangers, Santa Claus, even gloves and men with mustaches! I remember her little three-year-old face, nervous and scared, as she stood in the hallway and peered through the window at a Christmas dance recital. Then my thoughts turned to images of her during many Christmas seasons, dancing gracefully on the stage in various pieces of The Nutcracker Ballet. She changed from a shy little girl to a confident, talented young woman, who thrived in the spotlight. And I will never forget the joy and pride I felt as they announced her as the Regional Sterling Scholar Winner in Dance. Yes, she loved a challenge, and I guess a mission was the next logical mountain for her to climb.
Once inside the airport, we were greeted by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who had all anxiously gathered to welcome her home. I passed around colorful “Welcome Home” signs that were lovingly made for this occasion. There were several other families holding signs, which I suspected were here for the same reason. We watched the arrival board, tracking her flight, and noticed that it had been delayed. Someone said they had to wait longer during their layover for the plane’s wings to de-ice. My nerves couldn’t handle this!
The chatter and small talk in the airport changed to cheers of joy and cries of excitement! Then I saw her. Walking towards me was the small frame of my beautiful dark-haired daughter in a feminine-looking, knee-length, blue and white dress. Her hair had gotten longer, more than halfway down her back. She looked so fragile. Is it possible that she has gotten smaller? Did she eat enough on her mission? She spotted me and ran towards me. She fell into my arms, sobbing. “Mom, are you really real?” she asked. I just nodded my head and held her close. I couldn’t hold back the tears. We stood there, hugging over the barrier chain, for nearly over three minutes. Everyone else stood back and let us have our special mother-daughter moment. Then I watched as she next went to her dad, first looking into his face and then being wrapped in a hug as she fell into his arms. How he loves his daughters!
Our kids have always been close, but she and Melanie were almost like twins, maybe even closer than twins. They held each other tight, and I could see the tears running down each of their faces. Melanie introduced her to her fiance’, Nate, whom she would be marrying in two days. Nathan and Valerie, her older siblings, looked on with pride and waited their turn. Soon she was welcomed by them, and there were yet more tears. She “admired” Nathan’s long beard, which he had been growing all year, and she met Brian for the second time, now as Valerie’s husband. Soon, all four siblings were wrapped in a group hug, laughing and crying at the same time.
She moved from person to person, hugging, laughing, and sharing stories. I looked at the scene as she was reunited with us. I was reminded about how important the bond of a family is. How wonderful it was to have our family together again!