Toddler Travel, continued
Come sit on down at the kitchen table. I’m in the middle of telling the story of a recent plane trip I took with two of my grandkids. …
Atlanta at last. A two-hour layover was something I was definitely looking forward to with you, my little darlings. After deboarding in the Heartbeat of the South (makes my heart sing!), we strolled and laughed and looked at souvenirs and ate a good meal. We got to watch the planes land and take off, we rode an elevator up and down and, of course, we rode the Plane Train from one concourse to the next. I loved this train. Your uncle Kevin and I had ridden it so many times when we were young, making this same trip, although it has had some great upgrades since I rode it as a kid. You got to push the buttons, Ben, for our destinations and you giggled and jumped and threw your arms into the air as you enjoyed each new experience…that true awe and delight that belongs, alone, to this age of yours is my favorite part of all Grandma-dom. Abigail, you on the other hand, seemed consistently skeptical about your surroundings, keeping your head lowered, unsmiling, and looking just over the end of your bottle which you never released, whether full or empty, at all times.
According to our gate information, our plane had been delayed a bit. No problem. All was good. We got some snacks and sat and played with some play doh your mom had packed into your backpacks (for just such emergencies!) and waited. Our plane was delayed further and further. About 9 o’clock pm, we were told we could board and so began. You were both tired and this short flight to Columbia would give you enough rest to be able to see your mom and dad, somewhat awake, when you arrived. We walked down the jetway where I stowed the stroller with the checked baggage at the door of the plane, boarded and buckled my babes in. As we sat waiting for take-off, both of you fell asleep. We continued sitting on the tarmac for about a half hour and then finally began our departure down the runway, I leaned my head back. As I began to drift off, the plane came to a stop. It didn’t seem so odd as I’ve often been in planes that wait on the tarmac for an approaching plane, etc., but I raised my head back up in spite of the familiarity of the exercise. We sat longer than usual for this... Fifteen minutes passed, then 30, then 45 then the pilot came on the intercom and said “Folks, I hate to do this to you, but we cannot fly this plane tonight. We’ll be heading back to the departure gate.” Ever confident in God handling my circumstances, I thought “Well, if the pilots don’t think this plane should be flown tonight – I’m perfectly happy to turn around.”
As the plane circled back ‘round, I began waking you sweet sleepers and the plane came to a gentle stop. Everyone began to exit but we waited. I knew we were in no hurry and it just seemed like it would be more fun to move the three of us out at my leisure rather than herding with everyone else. One thing weren’t, was in a hurry.
The fact that we weren’t in a hurry turned out to our benefit as the baggage handlers had inadvertently put your rolling throne, Abbey, onto a baggage truck that was headed for another plane. They caught the mistake before it actually got ON to another plane, but because of that the three of us were delayed deboarding afterall. The attendants were kind to you both and me as we waited, in spite of some of the nasty words that were hurled at them by other passengers as they had exited the grounded plane. The attendants knew I couldn’t leave without my Abbey-mobile so they talked with us and gave you some pilot wings, Ben – they gave you some, too, Abbey but you promptly threw the token to the ground as if to pronounce your dissatisfaction with the whole deal. Shortly thereafter, but still during the awkwardness of your protest, my girl, the stroller was located and delivered and we were on our way.
I bundled you two up to make our way to the terminal. Though it was a short and covered trek, it was 28 degrees outside and that snap of cold just didn’t seem fair at 2:00 in the morning. Yea. Our time change had kicked in and what would now be about 11 pm in California was instead 2 am in Georgia. Our original landing time in Columbia had been 11 EST, we were already three hours late, but that was alright. I walked into the terminal knowing we had a bit more of a wait because the last I’d heard, a little less than hour earlier, was that the pilot had announced that they would be trying to find a new plane for us to continue our journey. Upon arrival out of the jetway, a kind gentleman with sad eyes approached us and looked me straight in the eye and said “I sure feel sorry for you. Is there anything me or my wife can do to help you?” I didn’t mean to laugh, but I did, as I said – with complete genuineness – “Well, thank you, but we’re just fine.” Another lady approached us as well and asked if she could watch you both for me so I could take a break for a minute. The kindness of that offer really struck me, and I was grateful but the thought of such a consideration made me want to scream at her: “Are you outta your everlovin’ mind?!!”. I kept my composure though (without too much effort =) and just said “Oh, you’re very kind, but we’re good. Thank you.” I guess it is hard to watch someone wrangle little kids on a delayed trip, but I really was fine and you both were so very good (which is likely why people were volunteering to watch you for me. Ha!). I had put Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on my phone (Heaven bless Netflix) for you, Ben and you were content. You hadn’t become cranky or difficult in any way, your favorite TV show just seemed to me to be an adequate, proactive way to maintain the status quo. You were asleep in your rolling habitat, Abigail. We all sat to wait on details of the next plane when yet another gentleman approached us and said “I think you were still on the plane when they announced that we would be spending the night, and that we could either stay in the airport or they’d provide hotel vouchers.” I stared at him as he finished his sentence, trying to process this information, and I think he just eventually walked away. I don’t remember. My mind was racing. I looked around me and focused my mind. I texted Grandpa first and then your dad and mom to let them know what was going on. I wasn’t panicked, but I became concerned as I did begin to notice - at that point - that many of the people on our flight seemed to have indeed disappeared into the night. Hmmm. Never a dull moment, then I heard you, Ben, say “Uh, Gramma…” as pointed at your sister… Abbey, you had just awakened with a start (I don’t know why) and subsequently threw up all of your vending machine-purchased milk, chips and sandwich. Feeling a little more pressed to make sure we were all safe for the night was substantially more important than being sure we were clean, so I smiled at you sweet girl and said “Grandma will take care of it, Love” and I reached over, carefully avoiding your throw up, unzipped your jacket (which had taken the brunt of the spewing), and slipped it off your little arms and dumped it right in the trash can. No fuss no muss. You shook your head at me, Ben and said “My mom is not gonna like that, Gramma”. I was pretty sure that your mom would have done the same thing in my position so I tossled your hair and said “I think she’ll be fine with it, Benji.” You seemed content with that. We had things to do.
It was 2:15 am now and I verified with the desk attendant that we were definitely grounded til Sunday morning and that our flight, yet undetermined, would leave sometime between 7am and noon. To avoid missing the flight, they “suggested” that we whether we stayed in the airport or went to the hotel, that we be back at this gate no later than 6:30 am (four hours from now). I looked at you both nibbling on snacks provided by the airline. I looked at my watch. I looked at my phone. I thought, “Okay. It’s 11:15 in California, the time I’m used to, so I’M NOT TIRED. However, I was pretty certain I would BE tired at some point soon. The thought of going through the Security check point in the morning again if I left the airport, horrified me and I rolled my eyes to myself. The thought of falling asleep in the airport if I stayed horrified me even more; I envisioned myself slumped down in an airport chair, snoring or drooling or something as you two came up with a large, systematic plan to go “searching” while I slept. I further envisioned all of those people who had so wanted to help me, growing long fingernails while their skin turned green and their eyes turned red as they stole you from me and….oh, too many movies, I stopped imagining and just took the hotel voucher. I couldn’t risk the airport. So off we went to our Atlanta hotel at 2:20 in the morning.
The Plane Train People Mover in Atlanta Airport is a state-of-the-art, world famous, all encompassing marvel of modern technology and a shrine to man’s innovation which operates for 20 hours a day, every day throughout the year. Guess which four hours it DOESN’T operate? You bet. 2am to 6 am. I deduced this as you pushed the button to get on the train, Ben, over and over and over with no effect. I finally said “Ben, lets just walk, huh?” You nodded your tired little head and dutifully placed your sweet hand on your sister’s stroller. Maybe it was because it was late, but that gesture from you, my tiny man, touched me so deeply. We began walking, and tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of how grateful and thankful I was for you at that moment. I stopped the stroller and fell to one knee so I could just hug you. From there, we walked what seemed such a long time in solemn quiet. Your mom called me and she said “Are there at least people around you, Lisa?” There weren’t. I knew she would be worried though and there was nothing either of us could do about it so I said, “The most important thing is that God is here, Noelle. We’re totally fine.” I hoped that statement relieved her – it did me. I wasn’t afraid, I was just determined and trusting. After about halfway, Benji, I noticed your walk slowing. Still without complaint of any kind and your sister wide awake, I stopped and asked you if you’d like to ride for awhile ( I was ashamed I hadn’t thought to ask you that sooner) and you nodded your little head. I folded the canopy on the stroller out and sat you on top of it; good. I then rolled our double-decker stroller along for the next half of our journey. I found out later that while we had landed in Terminal T (the furthermost terminal in the Atlanta Airport), our taxi to the hotel would be in Terminal F, the furthermost terminal on the OTHER end of the Atlanta Airport). That corridor we walked was 2.8 miles long! You had walked at least half of it my boy. We walked and walked and walked. Fortunately, there was no chance of making a wrong turn, there was only the straight walk ahead that was offered.
I had plenty of time to think as we walked that night. And that corridor – which you can’t actually see the end of in the picture – was so long and so lonely and seemingly endless, too. I thought as I walked, this IS what the “straight and narrow” path is. Think of that, all my kids, (I have to insert a commercial for living a life dedicated to God) when you’re choosing a way that’s different from the wide and easy path your friends or co-workers may be taking…
Maybe we could’ve stayed in the airport seats where the bulk of people were staying that night, that would’ve been easier and surely less time-consuming, but perhaps tragic because I would ultimately have to put you two and myself at the mercy of those around us there. This long and lonely pathway was sure and sound and would lead to rest and rejuvenation, just like we’re promised, I mused. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life…” Matt. 7:14 This time, the long and narrow road would deliver us to a safe night’s sleep.
Thanks for sitting with me at the kitchen table today. See you soon!