I’ve been flying by myself across country since I was 13. I’ve pretty well got it down at this point in my life. It seems strange when after all this flying experience one could still find themselves on the special circumstances end of the situation. I believe most everyone’s goal when flying is to get where you need to go without worry, or feeling rushed in any way. We hope for a no-hassle check in, no obstacles, time to get a bottle of water, snack, a coffee for the flight, and time to go to the restroom before boarding — thus avoiding the unfortunate airplane bathroom. Best laid plans and all…..
Rarely do I get to play out the above scenario as described in its entirety, but it is always my goal. The flight yesterday to DC with Rachel and the two babies took an unexpected turn to the stressful. I didn’t even know we were running late. Being oblivious is very nice when you assume someone else is in charge of the schedule. You just do what you’re told and mosey along. My husband is very reliable and prompt, but I think he failed to figure in the extra time needed for checking in two babies. It is rather like a slap in the face when all is well in your own little world of 2-foot circumference, but upon, casually, stepping up to the counter for baggage check your world has a head on collision. The attendant looked at our boarding pass and screamed in our faces, “ You’re going to have to run if you even have a prayer of making this flight! Otherwise, you won’t be flying until tomorrow.” All the blood instantly drained from my face. My previous calm demeanor was replaced with fight-or-flight adrenaline firing in every direction. I was desperately trying to get my ID out and she literally shooed it away and said, “There’s no time for that! GO!” No time for that? I thought we were threatened within an inch of our lives if we didn’t all show the proper documentation and hold our mouth just right while it was examined! “No, no time for that now … run!” I guess I should have been more grateful rather than astounded, but the latter seemed the more appropriate response.
May I please set the stage for you? We got up at 5:00 am, loaded the sleepy, confused babies into the cold car seats. I had given myself a subconscious pass on travel departure responsibility since Rachel had booked and bought the tickets and Bill was driving the car. I’m worry free and unaware that we are running later than we should be. Neither of them mentioned it. We were dropped off … then kisses goodbye to Bill, aka Pops. Early morning flight — people lined up in every possible line. Rachel and I were checking two bags full of mostly baby’s things. She was wearing Sam in a front pack while wearing a full backpack of stuff. I was wearing a full backpack and holding Jude’s hand, she had no interest or tolerance for being rushed. I look down at the little toddler at my feet and say in the most fun adventurous voice I could muster, “Come on Jude, Nawny needs to hold you so we can run. Sucking her thumb and sitting comfortably on the ground, she slowly looks up and says what I most feared — the new self-expressive, “No, No, No I don’t want to.” Her nearly two-year-old eyes were staring back at my thinly veiled happy face. She wasn’t buying it for a second. I reached for her and sure enough, she pulled the infamous old wet noodle, thus flinging herself even lower to the floor screaming, “NO!” Naturally, I did what I had to do in this type situation. I leaned down and with super human strength, sent from the Lord, I scoop her up while wearing a heavily loaded, tip top full, backpack with squeeze drinks, goldfish crackers, and diapers peaking through trying to inch their way out. It was as if they had gotten organized in there into full military might with me as the enemy. Thankfully I won. The gate was the furthest one away, always. My daughter and I looked at each other, nodded and drew in a deep breath for strength, then girded up our loins, babies in tow, and ran. I wasn’t confident in the outcome at all.
When we reached the gate the last few people were boarding, so Rachel thought we were safe. I thought we were home free too, but as we got our boarding passes out we said, “Where is the connecting pass from Chicago to DC?” The original lady who helped us, in her panic for us, failed to give us the second boarding pass. We ran to the nearest desk. This lady never looked up, I honestly couldn’t tell if her eyes were even open. I believe she was praying we would disappear. This closing of the eyes is similar to what Jude does for a couple of reasons: number one, when she loves and enjoys what she is eating. She closes her eyes tight and wiggles her head and whole body while seated. The other case is when she wants to escape an unpleasant situation. It was obvious this was the latter for this poor lady. She could have gone either way with her decision. We tried to look as pitiful as possible. She said rather exasperatedly, “Well I will have to go get the two stand-by passengers off the plane, because I let them on when we thought you weren’t going to show up.” She gave us one last lingering glance before walking away hoping one of us was going to say, “Oh no, don’t do that. It’s okay. We will catch the next flight.” … Pause … I looked earnestly into her eyes, to establish dominance like our animal friends do, and said a confident heartfelt, “Yes please do that now. Thank you!” We didn’t dare make eye contact with the two embittered passengers as they exited the airplane, collected their belongings and stomped off.
We were in the tunnel to board. We ducked ever so slightly onto the bridge of the plane. As we raised our heads we were greeted scornfully with every pair of eyes on the plane. They were all waiting on us! For this flight, we were those people! We were flying Southwest Airlines, so, as you know, it is first come first served. Between the both of us we had snacks, an ipad loaded with preschool shows, sippy cups, blankies, bottles, diapers, wipes — split up equally between us, which basically meant neither of us, solo, had everything we needed for what lay ahead. I apologized ahead of time to everyone before we began the journey. We begin the walk of shame down the narrow aisle … first Rachel and Sam, and then Jude and I. Not only was I unable to avoid hitting every person we passed with the sleeves of my wadded up coat and backpack straps, but also Jude and Sam gave everyone on both sides of the aisle a nice swift kick for good measure. It was a long walk as we finally stopped at the first available middle seat. The only other seat was a middle seat about five rows behind this one. The flight attendant pointed out our ‘choices’ and we looked at the solemn faces peering up at us on what suddenly seemed like a brightly lit stage. Rachel sweetly asked if anyone would mind moving so we could sit closer to help each other. Blank stares, seconds of silence that seemed like hours… until I finally said in a loud and serious teacher voice, “Listen guys, I know no one wants to move. I understand that, and more sorry I could not be. However, quite honestly it would be in everyone’s best interest for someone to move and let us sit closer together, if you know what I mean,” tilting my head ever so slightly pointing towards the two babies we each held precariously in our arms by now. Still no movement so I said again, “Seriously, think about what the implications are here. It truly will be in the best interest of everyone if someone moves.” At last, a kindly grandma and grandpa type stood, as if they also, experientially, knew this would indeed be best. They gave us an aisle seat in front and behind each other.
Thankful to be seated and the heat from the spotlight dimmed somewhat, I knew what was coming next for sure. Jude didn’t have any water in her cup, since we had to run to the gate and were unable to purchase some before our flight. If there are two things we need for Jude at all times is her “lovie” and her “mulk”- one for each bend of her arms. I threw my voice backwards to Rachel and said, “We better get them to get some water in her cup now. There is no way she will be able to wait until they serve Jude’s beverage.” Jude already had been requesting loudly, “Goudfish,” (Goldfish crackers) and had somehow managed to slip the bag out of my backpack. She already had a fistful in her hand — all the way to the bottom of the zip lock bag. Quick as a cat, they were loaded into her little mouth, fins sticking out from her lips. Right on cue she said, “mulk,” which is her word for a cup of beverage. I noticed the guy next to me had a water bottle. I looked at him and then the bottle and back at him. I considered offering him $10.00 for it, but I looked him over more carefully and thought better. Within 5 minutes of being seated, Sam decided to have his morning constitutional — since we had ripped him from his crib at 5:00 a.m. So, that was fun for everyone … but Rachel dealt with it like a champ.
The second leg of the flight was much better as we weren’t late and the plane was not full so we went straight to the back row and had all three seats to ourselves. Thankfully uneventful except for when I showered us all with pressurized water when I opened the flip up straw of Jude’s Sippy cup. I don’t know why my immediate reaction wasn’t to just shut it? Instead I decided to redirect it while still spraying like old faithful onto the guy in front of me, interestingly, all he said was, “What was in the drink? I apologized and said, “just water,” he said, “Ok well it’s fine then.” I thought that a very benevolent response. I was however a bit curious as to what he might have said had it been something other than water. We’ll never know!
These are the moments of our lives that we can laugh about or cry about. I’ve done my share of crying over things of this nature, but I’ve learned the more fruitful outcome is laughter. What joy and fun to share unexpected moments with our family and friends … moments that are gone almost before we realize we lived them … moments that never take the same route again. Next time is always different in some way, for good or bad. I’ve been learning to turn the crazy unexpected things in life into an adventure rather than a crisis. We must embrace these crazy gifts and rejoice in the fact that we have people to whom we can say, “Remember when….” that’s what I call a “storypeace”