Sunday, September 30, 2012

(in)Frequent Flier

Photo credit: Ryan Carver
Having never been to the Pacific Northwest, I was psyched when Mike's best pal announced that his wedding would be in Seattle - one of those faraway places for which the only image I can muster up in my mind is the generic one planted by Grey's Anatomy and Kurt Cobain.  According to the map lighting up the seat back in front of me, I'm somewhere over North Dakota at the moment, about two hours outside Seattle. For Kevin's wedding, we decided to leave the girls with family for a couple of days to free us up for a weekend away together. Mike headed west yesterday, leaving me to fly solo for the first time in over three years. And I must say that I'd all but forgotten what it was like to fly without an infant (or two) wrapped around my hip.

It turns out that when you're not lugging car seats, strollers, and a diaper bag packed to the seams with snacks and toys to occupy the kids, navigating security is a breeze. I floated through JFK as if I were out for a Sunday stroll with not a care in the world. While leaving the bookstore excited for the quiet reading time awaiting me on the flight, I nearly bumped into Sarah Jessica Parker in the Jet Blue terminal (I know!), a sighting I would have surely missed had I been tending to the kids.


As is procedure for me when I fly, I mentally prepared myself for the expected internal freak-out upon boarding (airplanes make me insanely nervous). Ordinarily, I quietly swallow this anxiety in front of the girls, muttering my rosary under my breath and acting as if all is fine so that they don't inherit their mother's fear of flying. But today, I could just be myself. Right before boarding, I stood at the gate staring down into the long jetway as if it were a plank leading to shark-infested waters. With no kids to worry about, I made a quick detour to a nearby bar where I spiked my morning coffee with some Jameson to calm my nerves (oh, don't be so appalled). 

Once airborne, and admittedly more calm, I watched a movie of my choice, uninterrupted. I finally got to read through a collection of essays I'd been eying for months but never had the time to get to. For once, it isn't me who's shuffling up and down the aisle, shushing a screaming toddler and fending off dirty looks from other passengers. And the only potty breaks I've been worrying about are my own. 
I'd been reveling in my solitude when a flight attendant placed a snack box on my empty tray table and, instinctively, I picked up the flimsy plastic utensils and began slicing the brick of cheddar cheese into thin pieces for the girls, knowing they'd welcome the treat on such a long flight. Only then did I remember I was by myself, a quick pang of longing for my girls leaving my chest just as fast as it had come, my mind drifting to what they were up to in New York, and wondering if they were thinking of Mommy.

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