“He’s pulling my shirt!” the 4-yr-old cried, while I pried his 22-mos-old brother from his shirt on the airplane. We were snuggled – three people into two seats so the “baby” could ride for free- “on my lap.” It seemed like such a good idea, when we qualified for an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii. All expenses were paid for Chris and me, so frequent flyer miles paid for one son and the other was left as a “lap child”.
The ten-hour-flight from Detroit to Honolulu was better than other connections, and we could take just one more skip over the pond to the island of Kona. The palm trees, the mango juice, the pineapple boat ice cream sundae, the mama whales and baby whales, the 70-degree-nights and 80-degree-days were there for us! And coffee. Yes, Kona coffee! Anyone could have predicted it would be challenging to take a long flight with two young boys, but what flight struggle could compare to the islands that awaited our arrival?
I had prepared: Color Wonders would keep the ink off of the airplane tray. (Airlines must be thankful for Crayola’s invention!) Pre-electronic reader days, I brought books to read aloud, balancing the weight of my carry-on bag with the entertainment provided. A puzzle car-track would fit just right on the airplane tray, and I could imagine whiling away at least a couple of hours as we watched the wind-up car go in circles of our designed track, and then we would redesign the puzzle pieces to make a new track over and over. Hours of happily entertained children translated to a nap or book for me. Cheerios, raisins, granola bars and canned chicken (for my son with food allergies), would provide the snack time, as well as string out the eating to take longer – and hence more of the 10-hour flight would certainly vanish.
I had bought a new running suit for the trip. It was the kind that was too cute to ever bear sweat, but perfectly comfortable for a long ride. It was like public-approved pajamas. Matching, unstained clothes for the boys would make cute photos as Hawaiians adorned us with leis upon arrival. I couldn’t wait!
Now, as I sat on the plane, I couldn’t believe how the infamous Murphy and his laws had decided to join us for this trip!
– The plane was delayed 5 hours in the terminal, using up most of my entertainment stash.
– We boarded and sat for an additional 2 hours before taking off for our 10-hour flight; I really don’t remember why, because I was trying to be super mom.
– We never found food without allergens in the airport, so my son had eaten all of the canned chicken before the airplane meal arrived.
– The Cheerios spilled all over the floor of the airplane within 30 minutes (before takeoff!); I kept daydreaming of how to design a Dustbuster for a diaper bag.
– The wind-up car for the track got over-wound within its first run, and was never able to be used (despite that I had to carry the track puzzle pieces to Hawaii and back).
– We accidentally left the spill-proof sippy cups in the airport. (Of course, they are never really spill-proof. Anyway, I always needed them to be “losing-proof.” Maybe I needed to attach sippy cups to their hands like the mittens that are strung through their coats.)
– Without a sippy cup, the 22-month-old spilled the juice the flight attendant gave him in a Styrofoam cup…all over my new “jogging” suit.
– After the food ran out, the allergy-boy lived on potato chips and juice, but no worries, there were only 7 hours left in the flight; certainly he would sleep for some of those after such an exciting day!
– The diapers ran out in the 8th hour, and the flight attendant graciously provided me with some – 4 sizes too small.
– What comes after lack of sleep, topped with a diet of potato chips and juice? Diarrhea. When an almost- 2-yr-old wore a diaper for a 6-mos-old, it meant my new jogging suit had a new stench, besides the original apple juice.
– Now the brothers were exhausted to the point that shirt-pulling was a tear-jerking, judge-summoning offense.
We were exhausted when the words finally came across the loudspeaker, “Ladies and gentlemen, please prepare for arrival.”
As I started to reach down to gather our things, I realized NOW, both boys were asleep…for the last 20 minutes of the 17 hour trip. Ugh.
We landed, and as we disembarked, the beautiful Hawaiian girls in hula-skirts put flower leis around each of our necks – as if something between my clothing and my nose could disguise the odor.
But Murphy had not left us yet.
We joined the line of weary travelers waiting to see about connections. As we approached the desk, the airline employee’s face lit up and she explained that we had missed our 9pm connection, but that there was one that was delayed and probably still “over there,” [in the other terminal] but we would have to run.
We bolted as fast as possible. Carrying bags of broken toys and lugging drained children who sniffled in exhaustion, Chris and I ran through the doors, to the other terminal, to the exact gate where the flight was. Or was not.
Not only was the flight gone, but so were the people. The terminal had exactly four people in it – us. The lights were dimmed as if we had somehow snuck into a closed terminal. Disgusted, we turned to walk, or stomp back to the original long line of weary people. When we got to the original terminal, we discovered it was now locked. Since no more planes were leaving, I guess they decided to lock the entrance, and we were outside. We waited several minutes until someone inside noticed and let us back in – to go back to the gate and stand at the END of the line of weary travelers, so we could book a hotel and flights for the following day.
I tried to forget that my parents from Colorado would already be in Kona waiting for us, since we had invited them to multiply the fun. I tried to forget all of our friends who had also qualified for the trip, and were probably already in their soft beds with the Hawaiian breeze gently blowing across their bellies full of mango juice. I tried not to calculate that this would mean our trip was 1/6 shorter, because of these delays.
I was beginning to stew. I had held it in ALL day. I had tried to be positive for the kids, forgiving to the airline- they knew not what they did. But, THIS lady, this AIRLINE EMPLOYEE who had made us RUN all the way to the other terminal HAD TO HAVE KNOWN what she was doing. SHE MUST HAVE THOUGHT IT WAS A FUNNY JOKE. SHE WAS GOING TO PAY!
The “bad wolf” in my head recited the riot act I would be giving the lady as soon as it was my turn at the counter. The “good wolf” on my other shoulder tried to counter, but it was unproductive – the “bad wolf” was too strong.
The baby whined in tears in the stroller; my silent voices alternated between whining and ranting inside of my head.
While I stood in line, my older son started walking in circles around my legs. He held his hands on my knees, as if going around a Maypole, singing a happy song as he walked.
I was so annoyed, even my precious child’s voice was on my nerves, and I was just about to ask him to be quiet, when I stopped and heard what song he was singing:
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! Again I say rejoice!”
I couldn’t help but think that God used my son to relay a message that day: rejoice! Not sometimes. Not when I feel like it. Not when someone else deserves it. But always. Again, I say rejoice!
I can only imagine the airline employees’ lives I was about to lambaste with negative when the Lord interrupted with my son’s song.
So I had 5 wonderful days in Hawaii instead of 6, was it really that big of a deal?
In the end, Murphy loses; God wins. I am on the winning team, and I need to act like it! Always.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)