Saturday, December 18, 2010

Flying Solo

I have never taken a major trip without having a 2:1 adult-to-child ratio, so I was nervous about flying to Denver without my Wing Man. The last time Penny flew on an airplane, she was too little to remember. This time, she was well aware of the hubbub in the terminal; all the bustling people, the tension emanating from everyone in the security line, the tension emanating from ME, and the roar of the planes coming and going. Grandpa helped us check our suitcase and the carseat, and we took only the diaper bag and (per the excellent advice of our friends), the umbrella stroller through security so I could prevail over any toddler-dawdling once we were inside the terminal.

Everything went well until it was time to board. I explained to Penny that we couldn't take the stroller on the plane, but we would get it back when we landed. She was distraught when I checked it at the gate, as though I had given away a prized possession. Then as we were boarding, she declared she was not getting on the plane, and went completely stiff in my arms. So I hurried to our seats, with my petrified, hollering child, avoiding eye contact with everyone we passed. I noticed people inserting their earplugs and iPod earphones, to combat the hysterical screaming coming from our side of the plane. Penny would NOT sit. "Noooo!" She screamed. "It too noisy!" "I...(sniff)..don't (sniff) SEAT BELT!" She was only marginally upset while sitting on my lap, but was furious when I buckled her into her own seat. She screamed for 15 minutes. And that's when I knew I was the mom with that kid. You know, the one who totally ruins your otherwise enjoyable flight.

Flight attendants kept asking (over the din) if I needed anything, and I smiled weakly at them, refraining from requesting tranquilizers. My fight or flight response was so intense, I momentarily considered getting off the plane. But then I realized that was irrational. I paid for these tickets, we're GOING TO DENVER, goddammit. Distraught toddler or no.

And then, from all that effort, she collapsed in my arms. We hadn't even left the runway. She curled into a ball with her head in my lap, still strapped in, and was out like a light. Poor thing. By the time she woke up, we were in the air and well on our way. That's when she realized that flying is fun. Hey Penny, check out this tray table! Guess what? We get snacks! Here's an awesome book I've been saving for just such an occasion! Want to color? I've got new markers!

Tiger by Mommy, cave by Penny.

When we landed, she exclaimed, "I did it!" And someone nearby applauded.

Meanwhile, we had a fabulous time in Denver. I went to a workshop while Penny played with our cousins and took a trip to the Butterfly Pavilion. We also visited the Denver Botanic Gardens, which is festooned with Christmas lights, and they also have Henry Moore sculptures on display. It was a visual feast, and we warmed up with hot cider and sugared almonds. There was much visiting and quality family time, in addition to a long-awaited play date with our friends Eli and Gray, who are even cuter and more cherubic in person. We had an absolute blast.

Flying home was cake for Penny, now that she knew what to expect. We had a frank conversation about seat belts before boarding, and she was the perfect little traveling companion. The couple next to us even said so!

And then, we couldn't land. Literally. The fog (that turns people inside-out) was so terrible in Salt Lake, we had to stay in a holding pattern for 20 minutes above the airport before the pilot finally gave up and took us back to Grand Junction. My brain could not compute this. I had spent my last joule of energy entertaining Penny, first at the gate, and then on the plane. We had already maxed out every possible activity (including barf bag puppets) and now we couldn't get home.

Welcome to Grand Junction, CO.

The Grand Junction airport is small. Their dining establishments consist of a Subway, which had a 40 minute line; filled with hungry people from several other diverted flights. At this point, Penny was impatient and generally opposed to the idea of standing next to me in line. And I was tired. The Subway ran out of bread loaves and had to fill orders with flatbread. We rallied, had a picnic on the floor of the terminal, and waited anxiously for any word of boarding again. Fortunately, a colleague of mine was on the same flight, so I had someone to talk to, to help me wrangle Penny, and to keep me sane. THANK GOD.

Five hours later, we made it home. Britt, who hadn't seen his baby girl for four days, returned to the airport for the second time to rescue us (the first time, he braved the fog and was waiting at baggage claim when our little detour was announced). I was beyond happy to see him.

And now, I feel rather invincible, like I could do anything or go anywhere. I took my child on an adventure and we rocked it. Thanks to everyone who drove us around and hosted and entertained us and fed us. Let's do it again (someday).

1 comment:

jen said...

The applause made me laugh out loud!