72 Hours

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Last night, after two days of being in a holding pattern in Amsterdam, we finally flew home to Abu Dhabi. Going to the airport was as difficult as you might imagine but the normality of everything – standing in line, checking in – was a helpful first step. There will be a lot of first steps going forward.

Amsterdam gave us refuge for a couple of days. We mostly stayed in the hotel room the first day, going out for walks here and there and ducking into cafes for some comfort beer and frites. I have always loved Amsterdam and now it is forever a safe haven, a warm and welcoming city where no one knew what had happened to us and treated us with utmost kindness because that’s just what Amsterdam does for everyone. I went for a walk yesterday while my husband had to take care of some work-related things, and just wandered the streets and canals. It was so damp and cold that it was raining without raining, just beads of moisture in the air, but in the grassy areas little flowers were already blooming. Tourists were out taking pictures, parents bicycled on by somehow balancing groceries and infants on board. The world ticked on as though nothing had happened.

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We sat in cafes overlooking busy street scenes for hours. We people-watched. Man buns are all the rage, as are Doc Martens apparently. The old, waffle-bottomed high top ones. An old man cycled by with a paper-wrapped cone of tulips strapped to the back of his bike. Everyone has dogs. Everyone still smokes.

We went to the airport, and it was difficult but we got through it. I cried in security when a woman asked me where we were coming from. She hugged me and told me I needed a drink and that we are safe now. We flew home and slept on the bumpy plane ride, putting miles between us and what had happened. We got our bags, we got into a taxi, we came home. A friend who had been looking after the cats left us flowers and chocolates and a sweet note. It was 8AM when we arrived home, the sun streaming in and the world still just exactly as we had left it when we’d gone on a short 3-day vacation over a week ago. We put in a load of laundry (because nothing ever dried in Amsterdam, the clothes we washed in the bathtub came home in a damp bundle wrapped in plastic) and we went back to sleep.

Now begins the time when we can start to move forward. We have a lot to do in the coming weeks with the pending move, and it’s both overwhelming and comforting that we’ll be back in America in early April. We cycle through flashbacks and fears and nervousness around crowds and pure happiness and gratefulness. We will cycle through lots of things. Such is the nature of trauma.

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