Original Post: 8/10/2008
The original title of this post was going to be “Nicole’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”
In a moment of insanity, I thought it would be a good idea to fly my own three children plus my niece and nephew to Huntsville, AL for a glorious visit with Mimi, Pop-Pop and my own grandparents. I was confident I could handle the 3 1/2 hour travel time on Friday night. What I didn’t allot for was being bumped off our original flight, sent to a different airport for a 6:40 AM flight the next morning, arriving at the airport only to be told that we had been re-booked at the wrong airport and wouldn’t be flying out for several more hours–IF they had room. All that error, and I was offered a lousy $25 travel voucher. I almost had my own postal moment in the ticket line (where I stood for almost two hours), but THAT is another post. What I wanted to share was my experience with two people that refreshes my faith in humanity.
The first happened in the Richmond airport before we even left the ground. After the airline finally found us five seats, we headed through the security with our four backpacks, ten flip flops, one Baby hiking pack, one stroller, one frazzled mother and five children. Three bags went through and then everything stopped. One security guy looked at the Xray screen. Then three security guys. Then police. Five minutes into the ordeal, it dawned on me. Charlie, my five year old, never leaves home without his cap gun. His METAL cap gun. I rush to the lady, apologizing up and down for my mistake. She looks at me sternly, pulls me aside, and says, “Do you realize that you just shut down the entire airport?” I dissolved into tears and blubbered my whole travel nightmare to her in about twenty seconds. She gripped my arm and looked me in the eye, and with a strong maternal voice, she said, “Don’t let the children see you like this. Get it together. Be strong, you can do this.” I nodded obediently, pulled it together, and moved on….after the police ran my license and made sure I wasn’t a crazy terrorist. But she offered me something. She showed me grace and love and concern in a way that I didn’t expect. It was a gift.
My next sky angel was on the flight from Charlotte to Huntsville. I had just sprinted with my crew through Charlotte to make the connection. People’s eyes widened as I approached–they just couldn’t figure our little ragamuffin band out. I wanted to wear a sign, “only three of these are mine!” but I think that would have increased the looks.
I boarded the plane, my forehead covered in sweat. My arms were sticky with tootsie roll juice and my pants streaked with Cheetos remains, the war wounds of the previous flight with my toddler on my lap. The head flight attendant, a large black man in his mid-forties, zeroed in on my situation and became my best friend. He had the older kids demo the oxygen masks. He pulled my restless nephew aside and offered to show him all the heart attack equipment on the plane. He watched over the five year old in the bathroom. And then he slid up to me, thirty minutes into the flight, and slipped a little bottle of Scotch in my hand “you’ll need this later,” he remarked with a smile. It wasn’t any one thing he did, it was the sum of little actions that brought me such a sense of joy. There’s nothing like being in a situation of need and having strangers come around you with gladness. Sure, it’s his job, but the way he was doing his job–it was a gift.
So thank you, all of you who helped me along the way. And if you are in an airport next week and see a crazy-looking woman with a little band of stair-step children (10, 8, 5, 3, 1) running behind her, say hi.