Maybe it seems strange in all of my writing about our trip to Italy to dedicate two posts to talking about airports and plane rides. I probably should be writing more about all of the wonderful things we did and saw in Italy and all of the vegan gelato we ate and how wonderful our friends were to invite us on this incredible trip. I have been questioning, myself, why I feel the need to write about (and therefore reflect on) those hours (and hours and hours) spent travelling more so than the beautiful weeks we spent in another country.
I think I’ve finally come up with some kind of explanation. I did a lot of really hard core parenting during those hours of travel. I mean, yeah I did a lot of parenting the whole time and, for that matter, every day of the last 3 1/2 years, but… at the airport and on the airplane we were out of our element, there were so many factors beyond our control, so many variables, so many things that could go slightly or horribly wrong. When we were in Italy, even though we were in another country and living on someone’s couch and without Todd and all the comforts of home… at least there was a predictable rhythm to our lives and things were really rather ordinary.
But, on a big tin can hurtling through space? Nothing ordinary about that.
I knew before we even left NY that the flight home was going to be the biggest challenge. When we flew home from Nepal last year Todd and I were both dealing with sinus infections (probably due to the poor air quality in Kathmandu) and we were MISERABLE on the flight home. We were all exhausted from two weeks away from home and the excitement of travel had worn off. Things were no different this time around, except for that (other than not having any sinus infection) everything was a little bit more intense. I had spent two weeks solo parenting and Margot was missing home and Daddy so, so much. We were so ready to be home… we just had to get through 18 hours of international travel to get there.
We made it through our first flight fine, despite a one hour delay. We spent a few fraught hours in a German airport waiting for our second flight. Then we boarded our last plane and settled in for the long haul. We were chugging along fairly well, but my nerves were starting to get a bit frayed and the patient smile I had plastered on my face was beginning to fall down at the edges. And that’s how I ended up crying to a flight attendant.
It was a small thing that happened. But, it just felt so BIG. After all I had been doing. After the hours of travel to get to Italy, the two weeks of being the only parent, after handling so many issues big and small that came up from the moment we said that tearful good-bye to Daddy at the airport. After all of that, what broke me was the fact that they didn’t have our vegan meals. I had ordered them. We had wonderful meals on the flights to Italy, so I was fully expecting the same type of wonderful meals to arrive at our seats on the way home. But, we were towards the back of the plane, and by the time they got to our seats and offered us Chicken or Fish and they were all out of even the vegetarian meals, and they didn’t have our special meals, we were just… out of luck. So, I cried. I tried so hard to be calm, but my body did not allow it. My eyes filled with tears, and I looked pleadingly at the very kind person from the airplane staff and said “This is a 9 hour flight. What am I going to feed my child??”
So, what I fed my child was plain white rice left over from some 1st class meal.
It was not the best meal of her life, but… I mean, she didn’t starve, so. Thanks, Lufthansa.
I relied a lot more heavily on screens on the flight home. After my dramatic performance following the vegan meal problem, I decided I needed to give myself a little break in the form of good old fashioned “using a tv as a baby sitter.”
I tried to recreate the lovely nap Margot took on our way to Italy, but, it didn’t quite work out. What happened instead was she remained awake for 8 hrs and then fell asleep with an hour left in our flight. Which meant that 30 minutes into her sleeping I had to wake her up for the descent. Which meant that for the 30 minutes that the plane was landing, I had a crying, whining, borderline-screaming child on my hands.
I spent those last 30 minutes pleading with her to stay awake and not scream. I did not want to have to wake her up again to deplane and then deal with the whole thing all over again. I kept saying “we are so close, this is almost over, we are almost home.” At one point I asked her, “what can I do to help you feel better right now?” and her response was “The only thing that will make me feel better is if we go back to Italy with Will.”
Finally, the plane landed, and we got to stand up and wait for 5 billion people to take their crap down from the overhead bins, and I was *thisclose* to screaming “LET ME AND THIS CHILD OFF THE PLANE OR YOU WILL ALL BE SORRY.” But, probably “you’ll all be sorry” is the wrong thing to say on a plane, so instead I just kept up with the pleading and tried to hold back my own screams/tears.
Once we made it off the plane we were directed to customs and to the SLOWEST MOVING LINE OF ALL TIME. Margot was so exhausted, she was falling asleep on her feet, but I knew that if she fell asleep in my arms before we got through customs, she would miss seeing Todd and she wouldn’t see him until he got home from work the next day. So, I did everything that I could, I used every ounce of strength and love and kindness and patience that I had left and. We made it. We finally got to the customs officer who was painfully nice and chatty (which is why the line was moving so slowly) and on a normal day, as opposed to my hardest parenting day yet on record, I would have LOVED to talk to him about how I ended up being born in Hawaii, but, not today, kind officer! We made it through, we got to the end and… there he was. Todd. I love that man, but not ever before in all of our years together have I been quite this happy to see him. Margot ran to him. She jumped in his arms, she giggled uncontrollably, she was overjoyed to be reunited with her Daddy.
And me? I collapsed onto him and cried. He said “what’s wrong?” and I sobbed “I am so exhausted.”
And just like that. It was over. Our trip, our travels, our trials and tribulations. And just like that, we were home.
Coming up: Italy: The Conclusion and then I’m done, I promise.