You pack the bags slowly. You're a terrible packer and you always have been, like the time you went backpacking in Europe with a backpack and two huge suitcases and you were pulling them on and off trains and everyone kept muttering in French and Italian and Spanish what an asshole you were.
This is your first trip in an airplane with both kids and likely your last. Next time, there will be another suitcase, more coloring books to purchase for the plane. Your flight leaves at six in the morning, bound for New York where you will stay for four days in the country upstate with Hal's parent's, then drive to Manhattan "where the big buildings live". You will be tourists, all of you, like you were when you were a child and your parents wore neon fanny packs and took pictures of you and your siblings with a man in gold paint.
You've been to New York a dozen times since then, mainly when you were single and you crashed on Angela's couch, partied, crashed, partied, crashed, walked around, got lost, crashed.
You never went to the Met in those days or or the Natural History Museum. You never made plans to visit FAO Shwartz but you did spend a day once on the F train, riding back and forth for seven hours, writing down everything you saw: a break-up, a fist fight, an old woman fall down the stairs, a business man offer a teenage boy one of his cookies...
This time will be different. You have no plans except for a list of things that tourists do. You will see the Empire State Building first. Knowing Archer, you will likely visit it more than once.
Every night you read books about skyscrapers and every morning before school, he builds cities in the hallway, out of blocks and legos and instruments. His tallest building is a mandolin guitar wedged between two shoe boxes. The Arch in his name is for architect, you now know.
I love that we live in a time where we can cross the country in an afternoon, from one coast to the other, takeoffs and landings bookending a view of mountain tops and clouds. That, for the first time, our kids will get to experience Hal's hometown, sleep under the same roof that once housed their father's dreams. That we don't travel much, so when we do, it feels like magic.
They ask what will happen tomorrow, on the airplane. This will be Fable's first time in the sky, Archer's third. He asks what kind of games you have in the bag and you tell them its a surprise. Stop asking, it's more fun this way. Hal scratches Fable's back and tells them about the old house he grew up in, that its been years since he's been home, how excited he is we get to come with him. Then they climb into their separate beds with matching bandaids, make airplane sounds.
Whooooooossssssshhhhhhhhh, crrrrrrrrrr, fphhhhhewwwwww...
They can't wait for New York, they say.
Neither can you.
But first you must finish packing.