Toddler Travels, part 3 of 4
Hi There! The kitchen table’s where you want to be…have a seat! I’m almost done with my story…
We finally found ourselves at what looked like an exit, Terminal F (I quit believing the directions I’d received when I continued NOT seeing Terminal F). However, above the only EXIT door at the far end of the airport was an imposing red and white sign that read “You will not be allowed re-entry to the airport once you exit!”. Okay, I thought to the sign, no need to yell; I wouldn’t leave til I got an answer. I was really eager to find another living person to talk with about our next direction and was stunned at the utter lack of humanity in this “busiest airport in the world” even at 3 am. At last, we came upon a sleeping night watchman, watchwoman rather, and I asked her how to get out to the hotel shuttles. She showed us the way and then said “Shuttles come and go about every 20 minutes.” I thanked her, so did you, Ben and we got to the door when I stopped and looked down at you, Abbs, sitting in your stroller with no jacket and – horrors – no bottle. NOW I was panicked. I searched your whole stroller in silent terror for that bottle of yours. I suddenly felt like I was in a live landmine area where no one dared trip the mechanism that would break the silence of ignorance. I wanted to tell you not to look your sister directly in the eye, Ben, so we could keep her from realizing she didn’t have her bottle; I just smiled at you instead and stood up straight against the fact of the missing bottle. There wasn’t a thing to do about it.
The no-jacket thing on you, Abbs, concerned me immediately though as I questioned whether I should’ve thrown the throw-up covering away. I called the hotel number that was on our voucher and explained my situation. The Front Desk Hotel Attendant was a pleasant voice with good direction. She said “I’m calling Sam right now to go to you. When he gets there, I’ll call you back and you go outside then. The name on the side of his shuttle is X-X-X, be sure you don’t go in the shuttle with Y-Y-Y on it, we’re not sure who that is.” Yikes! I thought, and thanked her for both the warning and the forthcoming phone call.
So there we were, in Downtown Atlanta on a Saturday night. I thought about your poor ole mom and dad and wondered how they must be doing. I called them as we waited in hope of easing them a smidge, since all was indeed good. You two were great. The people were kind. I hadn’t lost my phone, my wallet, nor a kid (all good things), what more could we ask? And I kept them updated on our trip every step along the way.
Your mom told me later that when she was a little worried about the three of us being alone in Atlanta, that your dad said “I guarantee you, that my mom is having the best time ever. She’ll think this is an adventure.” That made me happy; and it let me know they were praying and were at ease. Feeling confident that they could bear it, I sent these pictures:
It’s a bit blurry, but you get the idea. You both loved the bus ride – and a good thing – it was almost a half hour long! Holy Cow. Neither of you buckled under the pressure at all, wide awake, full of awe and laughter at your new, temporary world. I loved watching it all unfold.
Once at the hotel, we unloaded and walked into the overly-lit lobby. You tugged at my heart strings, Benji as we walked in and you said “We’re home, Grandma!!” Shamefully, and to say the least, I brushed off your innocent comment for the moment – I was busy checking in, watching you two (it didn’t seem to be the best location Atlanta had to offer) and hoping I wouldn’t sleep through my alarm because I felt confident now that I would definitely sleep.
As we walked through the creepy white-walled halls to our room, Ben, you seemed a little anxious. My mind had slowed and I was now regretful that I hadn’t dealt with your “we’re home” comment in the lobby… When we arrived at our door, I opened it to find a pleasant, but vivid avocado green (IS there a “vivid avocado green”?!) room with dark wood furniture. It seemed a little foreboding because of the bright LED lights (not at all cozy) and when you saw it, you said with a disappointed tone that made your little voice shaky, “Is this my new room , Gramma? Can I go see my mommy and daddy’s room?” Oh goodness, I’m teary-eyed writing out that little sentence of yours now, and I couldn’t hold my tears back then when you asked it that night. I picked you up and hugged you so tight. At that moment, I wanted to drop-kick every single person and machine and circumstance which had blockaded your road to the new room you had been promised. We had all been so thrilled for you to see that room; your very excited mom and dad and me and your grandpa, everybody: “Oh, Ben! You’re going to have a new room!!” We had all talked about it, built it up and made it your ultimate goal for this trip. It broke my heart to tell you that this wasn’t your new room, that it was the "airplane's room" and that your mom and dad weren’t there - and that truth was made worse by the fact that I don’t think you believed me. You just hung your little head and sat on the floor. I was dialing my phone to your dad as fast as I could as I placed you in the bed you and Abbey were going to share. Your mom and dad were more than happy to talk to you for your 3 am “tuck-in”. I didn’t listen to what they were saying, but if your mom didn’t fall apart after hearing you ask if you could see her please, aughhhh!!! I’ll hand it to her for being the toughest woman I know! After their call, I rubbed your head and you began to close your eyes peacefully when your sweet sister suddenly realized that she didn’t have her bottle. Let the nightmare begin.
I tried all I could think of in that little room Abbey Love. I knew you were just expecting something life had, so far, always delivered to you – a bottle at bedtime (baby problems), it wasn’t too much to ask. I knew that, but alas – there was no bottle. You did scream and cry, but after a while, it almost seemed like an obligation rather than in impulse, so I laid down for a two hour nap myself - and ignored you. The door was bolted shut, the windows were welded closed, you weren’t waking your brother and I was glad for the opportunity to re-fuel. Your crying slowed from steamroller, to rolling-pin status, and I was glad for you. I had texted your dad and asked him to call me at 5:30am, I had set the hotel alarm clock for 5:20 and put two alarms on my phone for those same times. Solid planning. And it worked.
I woke up feeling holy and hilarious at all of the good fortune the three of us had been privileged to receive in spite of our delays. I called your dad to tell him that I was indeed awake and asked him to say a prayer that neither of you would wake up while I was in the shower (which I was surely going to take).God answered that prayer wonderfully. No bath for either of you, just fresh clothes. I woke you up, Ben; and changed you Abbey, seeking with my utmost to keep you asleep sweet girl because no bottle had materialized during the night and you were, with your morning bottle, like I was with my morning coffee: Give it or die!!
It was Valentine’s Day, the temperature high would eventually be 48 degrees and we were off to the airport – on time! Once there, our Odyssey resumed with full vigor. The airline didn’t show us on any flight on the do-it-yourself terminal kiosks, which unlike last night, were now buzzing with a myriad of people trying to get somewhere. I felt my patience slipping through the loose seams of my tolerance as I whipped your stroller around and muttered a half-hearted prayer on my way to find a human being, any human being, to inquire about my new and disturbing situation. The one I found to ask looked at me somewhat bewildered (“why do you look confused?”, I wondered) and began scouring her pages and eventually said “Darlin’, you ain’t on no flight outta this airport today.” Inside, I was loudly thinking some fairly unkind things. Before I spoke a word though, I looked down at your two sweet faces, doubled up in that stroller, eyes turned up to meet mine … expecting the very best of me regardless of our circumstances and I begged a short prayer for kindness to come out of my mouth for the next three minutes (I prayed that same prayer every three minutes for the next two hours). I took a deep breath and turned and said calmly to the cavalier lady as she chewed her gum and looked at me over the rim of her silver-framed glasses, “Well, here’s my ticket,” and I handed it to her, “What shall we do now? I have to be in South Carolina by 1 pm today in order to catch my plane back to California”.
…I should let you go now. I hope you’ll come back for the final part of the Atlanta trip. Thanks for coming to the kitchen table today.