The Italian, having recently started coming out of his room after being tucked in to bed at night, caused me the most concern. Knowing that I was heading out of town must have been weighing on his mind, for each time he came out he was whimpering about missing me when I travel. The last thing we needed the morning of my trip was for him to break down in tears.
Fortunately, no tears flowed and the kids barely noticed I had gone. During my trip, we spoke a couple times a day by phone. The first day they provided interesting details and were willing conversational participants. The second day, the interest waned slightly. By this morning I could barely get them to pay attention to me.
Arriving at the Tampa airport this afternoon to check in, I was pleasantly surprised to find I could make an earlier flight and land in Charlotte ten minutes before my original flight would even be taking off. Though the drive home from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport took slightly longer than the normal two hours, I managed to arrive home short before 10:00pm.
When I entered the house, it took all of a few seconds to survey the situation. My lovely wife was surely sleeping because she would have called "hello" had she been awake. Our daughter was lying in bed with her, having fallen asleep waiting there for me to come home. And the Italian and the German were no doubt deep asleep in their room. Walking quietly into the house from the garage, trying to make as little noise as possible, suddenly the "chickety-chick-chick" noise of toenails on hardwood rushed toward me and before I knew it I was being lovingly attacked by Lily, our small white poodle. For a solid five minutes she jumped, bumped, licked and nibbled, occasionally backing away excitedly only to come back for more.
Eventually, I kissed everyone on the cheek and kicked our daughter from our bed to her own. It's wonderful being home, sleeping in my own bed, surrounded by the family I love. It's soothing to return to a calm and quiet house. It's comforting to know that life continues as it should when I'm away. But it's also nice to know that, no matter how sleepy and calm the homefront may be, there's always one member of the family who's never too tired to jump for joy at my return.