This is not a NY’s resolution sort of a blog. I try to deal with my personal battles and foibles and slightly unpleasant character flaws all year not just on the one day when I am quite possibly not at my best. After the birth of my second child my sister gave me some advice. She told me that there were going to be a lot of things beyond my control and rather than bash my head against them, I should relinquish, give in. That in conjunction with the flexibility I’ve waxed poetically about before (like realizing that it will take ten times as long to pack everyone in the car for a short trip to the library) saved my sanity. Good advice. Thanks sis!
A couple of blogs ago I mentioned that the young ‘uns and me were going to England for the festivities. And indeed we did. We left on the 21st, skipping a couple of days of school, and I thought we were well in advance of the crazy holiday travel glut. I also optimistically remarked that it never snowed before Xmas. In fact since we moved to the east coast we’d only had one or two white Xmases in almost ten years. Very disappointing for the kids because after all that was a big reason we moved. I’d gotten sick of rainy California winters and yearned for the snow forts, snow angels, snowball fights, skating of my youth. Ha and double ha.
In my most recent completed manuscript (Feltus Ovalton and the Lost Warrior) I throw a demi-god into the mix. His name is Murphy and his word is bond. He’s an interfering yet well -meaning sort of a chap. Just can’t resist sticking his oar in but unfortunately he always makes things worse. You know, the proverbial Murphy’s Law and all.
Perhaps he didn’t like me poking a bit of fun at him. All I know is that everything that could go wrong, did. Of course it snowed. Not only that but we had two huge snowstorms a day apart. And the second was on the day of our departure. The airport is an hour and a half north of us and I checked the website and the airline’s website compulsively every half hour before we left. All good, all clear. The roads weren’t bad and it wasn’t until we got to the airport that our visibility dimmed to practically nothing. It was like someone had hung a white sheet in front of our windshield.
“Airplanes take off in the dark, though. They just use radar and stuff so the pilot doesn’t actually have to see where he’s going,” I remarked optimistically. My husband just grunted but he’s an awful pessimist. Inside, the airport was bustling and bright. People moving, people carrying bags, people looking stressed out. It made my holiday spirits soar and I was suffused with the warm feeling of camaraderie I get when I know I’ll be sharing re-circulated air and seating with a lot of people in an enclosed space for over 7 hours. And there were no lines in front of my airline’s desks! Hurray! Things were looking good.
Let’s call them—-, ummmm, how about Untied Air? There was a harassed- no that’s too kind- let’s describe him as a- not- caring- in- the -least- man standing in front of the velvet rope handing out little slips of paper. I hoisted the Lucy Factor to my other shoulder with the diaper bag, Milo’s backpack, my purse and a small baby doll in a pea pod, gripped our passports in my mouth and took it. ‘Untied Air’s flights for today are canceled’ and an 800 number.
The first problem was that my husband had to get home and go to work so my first idea of him driving us 7 hours to Virginia to catch our connecting flight was out. The second was he needed to go almost immediately as the snow had piled up on the roads again and besides he needed to shovel the driveway before anything froze solid. The third was that the earliest flight they could give us was at 6:00 am the next day. At this point it was 11 a.m. Alone I could have piled my bags in a heap and slept on top of my coat, but with two kids, including one who had already removed all the fake soil particles from the tub of a gigantic artificial palm tree and scattered them all over the linoleum, this just wasn’t feasible. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say we got a motel room. The cheapest I could find within spitting distance (literally) of the airport. Untied doesn’t provide lodging if a flight is canceled because of inclement weather, btw. We ate the worst pizza I have ever had, and went to bed at 7 pm because there was nothing else to do (the TV was stuck on the menu channel) besides watch the eternal snow fall. At 11 pm the airline called to say the morning flight was cancelled too. On the bright side I haven’t gone to bed that early for years and it was refreshing.
The best they could do was the next afternoon and by the circuitous route of NY to Philadelphia to Chicago to London. It really irked me that we had to travel west before heading east. That’s just plain wrong. As a writer I am interested in experience. And who knows perhaps some day I will need to dredge up memories of Chicago O’Hare for a story. I have the material. We were there for six hours. Waiting. Any of you without young children have no idea how hard it is to entertain kids for what turned out to be 36 hours more traveling time than I had prepared myself for. I think I went a little bit insane. I can’t think of any other explanation for how I survived it. However the tiny part of my brain that was not seething or jabbering away at the pure cruelty, the insensitivity of those airline people who had condemned (and no, that is not too strong a word) me to spend eternity in four different airports over two days with a couple of healthy, energetic and curious children who like to dash off in opposite directions, and no vegetarian food available for sale besides greasy three -cheese quesadillas and high-sodium hash browns from Dunkin Donuts— we subsisted on the almonds and raisins I had packed- the corner of my mind that was not telling me that I was in hell, reminded me that it was alright. We would get there, my sister’s calm voice assured me telepathically, and once we were there we would be taken care of. I would see my mummy and she would pour me a cup of strong tea, and a few glasses of wine and there would be my nonna’s delicious cotton sheets on the bed and deep baths with very hot water, and no need to speak until the jibbering, jabbering voices had stilled. And presents! After all, what could I do about it? As I was boarding the plane, children and bags hoisted over shoulders and in my arms, a fellow passenger told me, “The way you interact with your children is wonderful. So much patience and interest. It’s beautiful.”
On the way home, Untied Air lost my bag.