Monday, July 11, 2011

home again

There is always a moment when I am traveling with my kids where I wonder what the hell I was thinking. And that thought immediately rolls into the next one which is "I am never flying again." I try to remember when flying was just me worried about my stuff. When I complained about a Korean girl with bad breath one flight, and another where a man drooled on my shoulder, but then bought me a drink, I was an idiot to think that was hard to deal with.

It happened this last flight when they were asking for volunteers to step off the overbooked plane, and Sam looked at me and said, "What do you think they will give us for three seats?" that I thought about my single years of one carry-on backpack for a month-long trip. He went up to the counter and I heard the little man say, "Four hundred dollar vouchers." I used to be the person, every flight, collecting vouchers. I didn't owe anyone anything. No where to be. No one to answer to. A free flight was like a little taste of hope and adventure.  A promise of another country. I let him ask. He stood there, so eager, as the baby pinched my nose in the Ergo. Thor is cute, but I just wanted to be home, and we hadn't even gotten a third of the way through our day of travel. I couldn't willingly be stuck in an airport in Mobile, Ala-fucking-bama, with a fifteen month old and a four year old hanging on to an empty promise of some heavily dyed juice that cost me five dollars. I desperately waved him off.

Please, no. Please see me saying no. Leave the little man to his job of finding single dudes with iPhones to skip this flight. Please have mercy on our family. Please have mercy on my back.

Turns out they didn't need volunteers after all. The kids didn't cry on any of our plane rides. They were quiet. They ate their snacks, and read their books. Thor slept most of the flights. His long muscular body had nowhere to go. He draped over me, head bumping the window, feet kneading whatever part of his sister they could reach, trying desperately to nurse and sleep. Our laps and our airplane seats, particularly in the small commuter between Atlanta and Mobile, were not made for a giant baby and his mama.  I look up, close my eyes and pray.

Dear Lord, please give me the strength to endure this knee in the side of my stomach for the next hour and twenty minutes. Please give me patience to make it through this flight if this baby wakes up madder than a wet hen. And Lord, next time, send me a sign that I should pay extra for first class. Because, Lord, I would pay four hundred dollars right at this moment for a place to put my feet. Amen.

When he wasn't snoring, Thor popped over the seat and smiled his big teethy grin at any grandma, teenage girl, or single business woman sitting behind us. He is not discriminating. Just the first person with breasts who catches his eyes. Because no matter how desperate the situation for the big guy, he can still manage to flirt with a lady. That is just how Shorty rolls.

When I walk out of the plane, baby smiling in the Ergo, people catching our family and smiling, I feel so cool. We are actually doing this thing. We are traveling without hiccups. When it is just us rolling our duffels, all efficiently cool, out of the airport when single, less organized, people are still struggling with their overhead compartments, I think we should fly once a month, perhaps even become professional gypsies. World travelers. My answer in the James Lipton quiz about my perfect job is always Travel Writer. It is a glimpse of the life I always envisioned before I actually had children. I remember saying stupid things while drunk about how when I had kids, I would throw them in a backpack with a few clothes, some books and washable nappies, and just hit the old Hippie Trail. Get them traveling early, I would say. So they don't mind.

Funnily, my kids don't mind. They don't. Bea has been on five trips, or like ten plus plane rides, if you count each way, but not connections. We've driven for three days with nary a peep of complaint out of her. Her only tough flight was age two, to Panama, when I was convinced we were all going down in the Caribbean Sea in a ball of fire. Lucy just died. I figured I had taken up residence in the shitty end of statistics. That is where I lived. That is where I dined. Freak accident mid-air seemed a perfectly reasonable conclusion to our trip and year. Goodbye, fair world, there is turbulence. We all gonna die. So, you know, her tension might have been mama-induced. She is over it now. She didn't mind flying. Thor didn't mind flying.

So, yeah, maybe I mind. All the lugging, and bad food, and expensive water, and pat downs, and wriggly kids, and small bathroom stalls, and unshoeings, and weird accents, and fake conversations when facing the forced intimacy of a seatmate. This isn't to mention the stuff when you get to where you are going. We stayed on an island in southern Alabama. There was a few sno-cone stands, a bakery, no sit-in restaurants, a baitshop/grocer and a circle K. I paid $11.90 for twelve shitty diapers. I mean, they didn't come pre-shat, but they weren't terribly well-made diapers. Thor, um, revealed their design flaws immediately. But we were on an island, and we had the choice of those diapers at the Bait Shop, or buying ONE DIAPER in a package for a buck ninety-nine at the Circle K. I needed a week's worth of diapers. We went with the bargain.

And yet, I also love traveling, because hey, even if it is not vacation in the traditional sense, it is still someplace else, and that is sometimes cool. Our someplace else had days filled with wet swimsuits, pods of dolphins, walks on the beach, saunas, delicious seafood, cousin time, wonderful conversations about books, and love and family and calm.

Beezus kept saying, "Of course there are dolphins here, Mama, it is called Dolphin Island."
"Honey, it is called DAUPHIN Island, not DOLPHIN Island."
"Yeah, Dolphin Island. The island where the dolphins live." Skip away.

We are home now. I managed to clean before I left. I forgot I did that, and it was nice. The effect exactly what I was going for. I also managed to do laundry before I left vacation, so I just had to unload the bags, and put the clothes away and lounge around eating bonbons.

Which is what I do every day.


  1. I just flew by myself with my one year old daughter and I could have written that first paragraph word for word. I think I've spoken it word for word a few times in the weeks since that trip. The next time I fly by myself, no matter what happens, it will be shockingly more simple than the flights with my daughter and I will revel in every solitary, unsquirming minute of it.

  2. Welcome home and thanks for the great travel commentary. I can relate to almost every word of it.

    Even as we are about to get in the car tomorrow and drive to a cabin 8 hours away for a five day escape from all the babies that were born in the last week, I still can't believe we're going to do it with a two year old. A girl who hasn't slept in the car since she was FUCKING ten months old. Not during naptime, not at 2am when we are on a road trip, not ever.

    And yet, I can't wait to get in the car and get on the open road. This travel bug is a strange lion to tame. I hope I never do.

    Lots of love to you and the family.


  3. Welcome home. Just got home today myself after four days away. I had a few occasions where I thought "what the hell was I thinking" but mostly just had a lovely time. I hope you did, too.
    And yes, so nice to come home to a clean house. The chaos was worth it while we were getting ready to leave.

  4. Travel with kids is exhausting. I wonder when it will feel like vacation again.

  5. Traveling with small children and then labelling it "vacation" is, I think, a little mean. But it's always an adventure and if you, or your partner, or at least one of you, can maintain your sense of humor, it is something akin to fun.

    I remember being on an airplane a few months after Calla died and thinking, "Well, this is it. Sorry, effers on the plane with us, but I bring the bad luck soooo . . . "

    Also, when I was pregnant with E, I immediately went on this travel forum I frequented and was all, "Wah, everyone is telling me we'll NEVER TRAVEL AGAIN once we have this baby--WHATEVER!" So I get the hippie-backpack-best-intentions. I think if you can maintain even a kernel of that enthusiasm travel plans are easier to imagine.

    Glad you had a mostly great trip!

  6. Welcome home! An island sounds really lovely, even with the sub-standard diapers.

  7. Welcome Home!

    I have an anxiety attack just thinking about flying with our 10 month old. I look up to you to be able to do it with 2 kids!

  8. I used to love flying, b/c it always meant you were going somewhere else. Then I started travelling for work - a lot - and flew - a lot - and I began to hate it (and this was before babies). The stale air that smells like farts, people cramming all their luggage into carry-on (what is with that, anyway?), and me just wanting to be left alone but too polite to disengage in small talk.

    I'm glad you guys went away - hope you're enjoying your summer. xoxo

  9. That space between who I thought I'd be as a parent and the parent that I've actually become--it's just immeasurably huge. Perhaps we've all just swapped one type of adventure for another.

    Glad you're all home safe and that you had a fun vacation with the family. Now, go enjoy those bon-bons.


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