Posted a few days late as it’s a challenge to write and unpack and transition all on the same day.
Traveling home with a month’s worth of belongings, two preschoolers in tote, a double stroller and a laptop stuffed in an oversized backpack creates a guarantee to be catered to while traveling. People tend to stare out of interest while making a path for us to pass similar to what I imagine the parting of the Red Sea to have been like. Even those traveling first class tend to get out of the way as I stride through the airport on a mission to make it to our gate.
First stop—security check point. I make sure we are all wearing slip on shoes to make the process smoother. Everything clears until the security guard takes the motor to my Magic Bullet (single serving blender) out of my carry-on. I had originally packed it in my checked baggage, but when the scale announced I was over the weight limit and the airline employee stated that would be an extra ninety dollar fee, I scrambled to remove a few books and random items out of the suitcase stuffing them quickly into an already full backpack to save my ninety bucks for something else.
Now the guard is mumbling back and forth with another officer and I’m starting to sweat. It never occurred to me that my Magic Bullet could be a weapon.
The guard looks at me with eyes that warn he has something important to ask before he has to confiscate my mixer. I am readying myself with an alibi, “I really only use the thing to make protein shakes, sir!”
Switching to English he asks, “Does this thing really work?”
I wonder how I should answer that and then decide to just nod. Might as well go down with the truth.
Now the guard is nodding in agreement and says, “I’ve always wanted one of these.”
Turning his head towards his partner he admits, “Hey, man…I've gotta go out and buy this. Have you seen those infomercials? She says it works well. Cool.”
He places the Magic Bullet back in my bag and tells me to have a good day. Feeling a little more like Moses, I take refuge in this small feat as I help my kids slip on their sandals and buckle into the stroller. With new confidence, I’m ready to lead them through the Atlanta terminal!
We find our gate with an hour to spare and leave my sister guarding our treasures. I tell her to not let anyone touch the Magic Bullet. Jordan, Maddi and I are in search of lunch…modern day mana for the travelers who know there won’t be any in-flight snack.
Walking with two tagalongs in tote mimicking a tandem bicycle, I maneuver with people rushing past us. I have my eye on the motorized cart transporting an elderly woman and another lady with crutches. The standardized beeping of the vehicle clears a guaranteed path. Maybe a rod or staff would be helpful at this point, but my kids seem to be the equivalent-making a way for us.
They have their own chiming signal to alert the passersby we are coming. Singing in tune together, even managing to change keys and swaying interlocked arms they recite the well-known Barney lyrics, “I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family.”
I smile thinking if Puerto Rico has made us into a happy threesome then some type of mission was accomplished…a sort of Promised Land. My smile broadens when I allow myself to take a bit of the credit. I tend to hover over my nestlings, a watchful even impatient hawk making certain that the loss they endured before they could speak will not have power to keep them speechless in this life. Sing little falcons. Sing.
Jordan changes the words, “We’re best friends. You and me. The way best friends outta be.”
People are watching us the way I watched sunbathers on the beach and I wonder what stories they are making up in their minds. Maybe dad is waiting back at the gate while we run to the bathroom some may think. Am I a divorced-single mom in the made up stories of others? I am a curiosity. I know that. But, most people with singing preschoolers are.
Maddi has the capability of turning the most heads. On our flight from Puerto Rico to the states she quickly made friends with the gentleman sitting behind us. When asked how old she was, I heard her say, “I’m almost four, five and six!”
Within moments she turned and said, "Mama, he has chocolate-y…he weally does.”
Peering between the seats I saw him holding out a king-size Snickers candy bar. His wife was speaking Spanglish, “she is smart…so grande.” My children have never had the fortune of snacking on a Snickers, but Maddi knows this looks good. I consent, telling her she has to share with her brother (and maybe her mom, too) and then wonder what it is about traveling that makes me give in to 54 grams of sugar while confined on an airplane.
Her charm never loses energy and she serenaded the passenger and his wife with her own rendition of “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” I don’t know if it could have actually been called singing as her giggles interluded each bar, but her audience was enthralled and she entertained them for half the flight.
It made me think of our taxi trip to the ER room for her strep throat the week prior, when the cab driver turned to ask, “Is she always this happy?”
I wanted to say no to convince him she really was sick. But, again the truth won out and I can’t complain that I have a perpetually happy kid.
Dodging two business men with briefcases and Starbucks coffee, we make a detour (I can't give up caffeine when I travel.) Next, we find two turkey-cheddar and tomato sandwiches from Au Bon Pain and head back to find Aunt Cindy enjoying a magazine and a few moments of kid-free quiet.
Maddi crawls up on her lap and I decide to take Jordan for another walk to see if there is any chance Maddi will fall asleep. We still have forty-five minutes before we board and her eyes are drooping. Jordan spots the ice-cream shop and I buy him a small cone to occupy our time. I tell him it’s a secret because I know Miss Maddi doesn’t like to miss out on anything.
Sneaking back to the gate, I notice the plan for Maddi to catch a cat nap hasn’t worked. My sister helps me gather our stuff as the airline employee begins to announce boarding zones. I hear Jordan whisper to his sister, “Maddi, I will tell you a secret if you promise not to tell Aunt Cindy…we had ice-cream.”
My son thinks the secret was to be kept from his aunt! Ah, the beauty of translation.
Three college-age girls and a woman who appears to be one of their mother's push past us with one of the girls in a wheelchair, her ankle bandaged. I nudge my sister and say, "Next time we are getting one of those for you…I'll bring an ace wrap and pretend you have a sprain."
My sister scolds me, "Jennifer, traveling with you is an enlightenment…if people only knew what you were thinking!"
Usually a patient person, I'm anxious to find our seats and strap my children in place for three hours.
My sister follows my kids who are darting behind the wheelchair as I check the stroller at the gate. I notice the passengers behind us are keeping a safe distance. When I find seat 34B, I'm baffled that my children and sister aren’t there yet. They can't all three possibly be in the airplane's bathroom. Minutes later, Cindy is dragging my kids behind her. Laughing, she explains the most recent adventure.
“Your kids were in the cockpit! Without yielding, Maddi told me that Mommy said they could say hi to the pilot. I tried to explain that you didn’t mean literally…that you meant for us to take our seats first. But, she wouldn’t have it….look I have pictures…Jordan even got to wear the pilot's hat.”
Maybe I will have to start calling my daughter Moses Maddi. She is a born leader for those who haven’t met her.
We are flying home. Everything in check. We are in our seats. All carry-ons secured overhead. Both kids fast asleep on travel pillows. I take out my laptop to journal the experience while taking a bite of my mustard flavored sandwich on tomato-basil bread. Final inspection: we are all in safekeeping. That’s my definition of a good trip.