I actually started writing this post during Thanksgiving weekend, but when I tried to upload these photos, I got a "Sorry, if you want to post pictures you must purchase more storage" message. It took 4.5 years of blogging to do it, but I finally used up all the free storage provided by blogspot.
I decided to wait until December to put this new charge on my credit card (only $2.49 per month), but by then the holiday hectic was in full swing and I just couldn't find time to blog. Until now. Thank goodness for Christmas break!
Elder Carter was the last person to come off his plane!
He was looking a little dazed as he wandered down the walkway.
Ed and I drove my older son, Jacob, to Utah right after Thanksgiving weekend in 2010 and delivered him to the Mission Training Center in Provo on December 1st. In the 2 years since then, we have enjoyed the emails and photos he sent us and his twice-a-year phone calls on Mother's Day and Christmas Day. We loved hearing the stories of his mission from afar.
But nothing can compare to the homecoming day!
The sight that greeted Jacob's eyes as he came out of the security area.
Monday, November 12th, was a no-school day to commemorate Veteran's Day. Ed had spent the entire weekend in the Phoenix area, taking a class to prepare him to become licensed as an insurance agent, so he was already in the Valley. Sarah, Dylan, and I arose early and left for the Valley just after 8am. We joined Ed at my sister Karla's house in Mesa by 11am.
Jacob's flight was supposed to arrive at 12:45, but when we checked online and discovered that his flight was 30 minutes ahead of schedule, we all jumped in our cars and headed to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix.
Elder Carter reunited with his mom Mary and little brother Dylan.
Except Dylan isn't so little anymore! He grew 7 inches while Jacob was gone,
beating out Jacob's height of 6'0" by one inch, at 6'1".
We arrived about the same time as his flight, but Jacob forgot about the time difference between California and Arizona (it was 12:15 in Arizona but only 11:15 in California). Thinking he'd have to wait more than an hour for us to come for him, he dilly-dallied in the plane and made us wait half an hour for him!
12 Nov 2012: The whole family back together again! Sarah (age 23),
Ed (age 52), Mary (age 58), Jacob (age 21), and Dylan (age 15).
It was such a surreal time for me. The whole homecoming thing didn't feel real at all until we walked into the airport. Then it suddenly hit me: I would actually be hugging my son in a matter of minutes! All at once I felt this rush of emotion and I was overwhelmed by both excitement and nervousness.
The 3 siblings reunite: Dylan, Jacob, and Sarah.
When we finally saw Jacob at the far end of the hall, walking our way, it was hard to keep the tears out of my eyes. I was fumbling with my camera to get the first picture, and then I was giving him a big hug!
Jacob with his Aunt Karla and some of his cousins:
Brianna, Julien, Addison, Celesta, Gabby, and Mariah (left to right).
After discussing the flight and collecting Jacob's luggage, we drove back to Karla's house in Mesa for a family luncheon. More family and friends stopped by to join us and celebrate Jacob's return.
More signage at Karla's place.
Jacob meets Lyla, his newest little first-cousin-once-removed.
Scott and Genevieve are her parents. Karla is her grandma.
Karla and family prepared a yummy luncheon feast for everyone!
We weren't able to stay long at the celebration at Karla's place, only about 4 hours. Then we headed back up the mountain toward home because Jacob was anxious to be officially released as a full-time missionary.
13 Nov 2012: A full family dinner back at home:
Ed, Jacob, Chris, Sarah, and Dylan.
Once we were back in town, we drove straight to the home of our stake president, Stephen Shumway, who interviewed Jacob at length and then gave him instructions for tasks to complete before removing his missionary name tag and transitioning from "Elder Carter" to just plain "Jacob."
All together again the day after Jacob's return:
Jacob, Chris, Sarah, Dylan, and Mary.
Two nights later, we all attended a meeting of the stake high council, where Jacob and two other young returned missionaries reported on their missions. It was one of my most thrilling moments as a mother!
It has been such fun having Jacob back home. In so many ways, he's still the fun-loving, charming 19-year-old boy who left us two years ago. Yet in many more ways he has become a man, with a mature nature, an eternal perspective on the world, and an even greater understanding of the importance of human relationships. I am so proud of him!