Leaving was hard, but I was glad I had a morning flight so that I didn't have a chance to completely break down. I did convince my DIL to stay upstairs with the baby rather than stand on the curb waiting for a cab.
My son and I took a cab to the Hotel Metropolitan (where we'd had lunch early in the visit; it was starting to feel like home) where we caught the limo bus to the airport.
I had dreaded this part of the trip, but we had such a lovely conversation on the two-hour+ trip to Narita that it stays in memory as one of my favorite parts of the trip. After picking up passengers at a handful of other hotels, we were on the highway.
Of course, I didn't have my camera handy when this happened, but at one point my son pointed out the other side of the bus and said, "Look familiar, Mom?" Sure enough, there was the Matterhorn, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain. For some reason I had it in my head that Tokyo Disneyland was on the other side of Narita and certainly not something I would see on this trip. It was a comfort to get that connection at that time.
Check-in with Korean Air at Narita was just as easy as it had been at LAX. My son and I did some window-shopping (note to self: traditional souvenirs at the airport) before getting into the long security line. He stayed with me as long as he could and we exchanged a teary hug. I got a little laugh right away, though, when I learned that - after over a week of removing my shoes everywhere I went, the security check would be one place where it wasn't required. Go figure.
I survived the last heart-rending moment of the trip when my son, following a ritual he and his wife had created, gave me one last wave from the window overlooking the escalator that I had to take to get - eventually - to the gates.
Yeah, I lost it. It's OK. It wouldn't hurt so much if I didn't love them so much, if I wasn't so proud of them, if we hadn't had such a terrific time.
It was worth the tears.
I had no problems on any other leg of the journey home. The only culture shock I felt in the whole trip was going into the passport check area of LAX. By California standards the folks working this area just seemed loud, maybe overworked but not rude. But after over a week of continual, everywhere-I-went, everyone-I-met, quiet, respectful treatment the loud pushiness of LAX was overwhelming. Still, I executed the steps calmly and efficiently and was thrilled to find the rest of my family waiting for me at the top of the ramp out of customs.
I had lost a day when I got to Japan, and got it back when I returned. I arrived before 8:00 am on the day that I left Japan, and spent the rest of the Sunday doing laundry, catching up on email and in general trying to get my mind wrapped around the idea of returning to work the next day.
And now, the planning and preparation for my next trip begins.