Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Travelin' light is the only way to travel"

Ever heard that J.J. Cale song? That was definitely me yesterday, flying alone with both kids. Thanks to Southwest, I was able to bring possibly the record amount of stuff for one adult. For $200, the price of two tickets, I checked three loaded suitcases, a guitar, and a carseat. I gate-checked a stroller; and I carried on a backpack, a diaper bag, and a small suitcase containing Jack's DVD player, lunchbox, and toys. Cora flew for free. So...three people and a car-load of crap, transported for $200? Pretty amazing.

Even more amazing were the angelic people I encountered. John was not able to help because he's not allowed through security. So he ran my bags inside while I stood, curbside, by the car and strapped Cora on my chest and Jack in the stroller. I kissed him and ran inside, where I saw my bags and guitar waiting, unnoticed, by the ticket counter. Because Cora is a lap-baby, I had to stand in the full service line, where I stared anxiously at my bags the entire time--I was convinced someone would notice them and haul them away.

At the front of the line, I checked in. Jack had unstrapped himself from the stroller and was standing there, drinking his juice. I had to leave him several times to run to the end of the ticket counter and grab each of our suitcases and guitar. A young guy noticed my predicament and offered to help, and he snagged my final suitcase and hauled it over to the agent who was checking my bags.

The agent assumed the guy was my husband and asked what his name was so she could find his ticket. I said, "No, it's just me and the kids." The look of shock on her face left a lasting impression! At that point, Jack started wandering off. I had Cora safely in the bjorn, thank goodness. A woman traveler walked up and said, "Can I do anything to help you? I'm alone and I have some time." I said, "Yes! Can you talk to my son for a few minutes while I finish checking my bags? I'm scared he's going to run off." So she made conversation with him, and then he hid behind my legs. I think he was scared she was going to separate him from his Mama! (Earlier, he hadn't wanted his father to get him dressed while I loaded the car; he was so scared that I was going to get on the plane and leave him at home!)

This woman, Bonnie, stayed with me all the way from ticketing, through security, and walked me to our gate. When she said goodbye, I started to cry. I was tired, and I was so scared that people were going to be mean to me on the plane. I knew I was a high maintenance traveler. The man giving me a gate check ticket for my stroller was a little short with me, and that's when I really started to cry. He said, "It's OK, I'll help you get on the plane." And he did. He walked with me down the jetway and made sure we were fine.

Once on the plane, I wasn't surprised to see that there were no more seats available. Our full-service check-in had taken too long and we'd missed the family boarding. A lovely young woman offered up her aisle seat. So Jack got in the center seat, and he immediately got upset that he wouldn't be next to the window. The man in the window seat, however, was completely passed out, with earplugs in and a hat over his face. There was no chance Jack could railroad him into giving up his seat. So he peered over the guy out the window, as I situated our many belongings. Now I got a chance to look at Cora's face (she'd been outward facing in the bjorn this entire time). She was asleep! I felt horrible--her head had been bobbing around as she'd been sleeping. What an uncomfortable nap!

I got out my nursing cover, and Jack was occupied with the take-off while I nursed the baby. Then I presented him with a big surprise--the DVD player we'd bought with our Costco rebate check. And a new "Thomas the Train" movie really put it over the top. He was thrilled! I rigged that up. Eventually, we went potty. Jack must've unrolled half a roll of toilet paper all over the floor, despite my protests and threats. When I walked out, the attendant said "STOP!" and pointed to my feet--both had long sheets of toilet paper stuck to them.

And when we landed in Jacksonville, our seat partner awoke. I said, "You did a great job sleeping with all this baby noise surrounding you." He said, "I have to. I play music for a living, and we play until late. Then bus call to get to the airport is at 4 am, so this is my only time to sleep." I asked him who he played with, and he said "Dustin Lynch, up and coming country singer." I said, "Oh I've never heard of him. What do you play?" He said, "Guitar." I asked a few more questions, ("Are you the utility guy? Do you sing, too?") He finally said, "Well, I am Dustin Lynch."

Jack sat on his lap for a picture. I said, "Do you have kids?" He said, "No, thank God. I don't know how anyone would be able to have kids and do what I do."

We sat in Jacksonville for twenty minutes. I got out a Pull-Up to change Jack. Right then, Jack said, "Oh no, Mommy, look!" And there was a giant puddle beneath him. He'd leaked right out of his Pull-up, all over the seat and his shorts and legs. Poor little guy. Our angelic flight attendant, who had already pandered to our every need throughout the first flight, rushed over with paper towels and a trash bag. After I'd cleaned it all up, he tore off the seat cushion and returned five minutes later with a new one. Hopefully the experience proved a point I'd been trying to make to Jack: Pull-Ups are NOT diapers! We have to pee in the potty!

Back in our seats, I was grateful for our kind flight attendant. Only on Southwest do they keep loading you with snacks and drinks, and kindly ask repeatedly if they can bring you anything else.

Our second flight brought us to my beautiful Virginia, where Chichi and Gracca were eagerly awaiting our arrival. They spirited us away, and we made it a couple miles from Norfolk before stopping at a gas station to nurse.

But we did finally make it to our beloved Chesapeake shore, where we were able to dip Cora's feet and let her understand that she, too, is a Bay baby. And I was able to understand that I, somehow, can travel alone with a newborn and a toddler. Life is amazing!

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