I grimaced as the all-too-familiar sound of my daughter’s signature baby cuss-fests reverberated throughout the cabin of our 757. Her inflection was remarkably similar to a Ricky Ricardo Spanish flipout as she rattled off unintelligible rapid-fire syllables.
Typically, these soliloquies have me in stitches. The invariable final “BAH” and its emphatic arm thrust just kills me every time.
But here and now, all I could muster was a nervous smile at my wife across the aisle, who flashed a quick one back while wrestling our tiny squirming diva in her lap.
Since two lap kids aren’t allowed in the same three-seat half-row, my wife had elected to fly solo while my son and I sat on the other side with my parents. The plan was to take turns and rotate seats as necessary throughout the flight, but for now, with the “fasten seat belts” sign lit and the crew preparing for take-off, we were locked into this configuration. We had booked the flight to coincide with their naptime in hopes they would crash for a significant portion of it, but the TSA security shuffle and unfamiliar surroundings now had them simultaneously wired and tired. And grumpy as hell.
“Only six hours to go,” I thought aloud.
“Can we have something else?” my wife inquired. Having followed the advice of many toddler-parent air travelers before us, we’d come equipped with numerous toys and books the Twins had never seen before, which hypothetically would sustain their attention longer than familiar toys.
Accordingly, my son–who’d had a few bored outbursts of his own on my lap, ripping the emergency precautions card in half in the process–was currently occupied with a brand new sheet of Mickey Mouse stickers he was adhering to the upright tray-table. At the risk of disturbing this serenity, I turned to my mother. “Mom, can you hold him a sec?”
Although he shot me a momentary WTF look as I handed him off, he re-immersed himself in the stickers as my mother asked him where Donald Duck was. He pointed dutifully at everyone’s favorite pantsless quack.
Digging through my backpack, I came across a Disney Princess sticker book–“Over 700 stickers!”
But as I reached it across the aisle, my daughter took one look at it and bitch-slapped it to the floor, erupting into another gibberish fit.
Seated with my wife were two college frat-boy types who were being incredibly good sports. In the spirit of this optimism, one leaned over to address our row, commenting, “You know, even though She’s not too happy, He seems to be doing pretty good.”
He deflated when met with a chorus of sighs and groans from my wife and me:
“Aww, are you kidding me?”
“We were doing so well.”
“Why would you say that?”
Of course, this merited an explanation. My wife spoke up. “When they’re being good, you never say it out loud.”
“It’s like jinxing the whole thing, dude,” I continued. “Like tempting fate.”
As if on cue, my son dropped a wad of stickers to the floor. Diving for it, I had it in my hand a split-second later, but my son, still inconsolably furious from dropping it in the first place, swatted it into the aisle. He then quickly realized he did want it back after all, and even though I unbuckled and promptly snagged it, it was too late. He was spiraling into an exhausted tantrum, kicking me in the gut as I reclaimed him from my mother.
My daughter, who had finally been drooping off to sleep, jumped at the sound of her screeching sibling and joined him, harmonizing in an A5 chord of despair. (Kids, this is why you should never give in to peer pressure.)
I looked at my wife. Our greatest fear had become reality–a stereophonic aircraft meltdown. Dammit.
Glancing around the cabin at the irritated faces of my fellow passengers who could not help but crane their necks to see just what they’d be dealing with for the next few hours, I knew exactly what they were thinking, as I’ve been that passenger attempting to ignore the kid that won’t shut the front door so I can just enjoy my Harry Potter and the DaVinci Girl Who Kicked the Mockingjay’s Nest and flavorless airplane peanuts.
But as that person, I’ve also found myself incredibly forgiving when the too-loud family transforms from faceless annoyances to fellow humans. All it takes is a little indication they’re not uptight a-holes.
Which is why I turned in my seat to the sea of disgruntled faces behind me, and loudly, over my wailing duet, proclaimed:
We’re here all flight, everybody! Thanks so much! And don’t forget to tip your flight attendants.
The cabin swelled with chuckles as the tension broke and frowns turned upside-down (well, except for my kids’ frowns).
And at that moment, I realized–in the immortal words of Bob Marley–“every little thing gonna be all right.” The worst had already happened, and the kids would eventually conk out. Our co-travellers seemed cool with riding out this vocal performance with us, and as they returned to their novels and earbuds, I like to think they told themselves the same thing I did: Cry all you want, kids. Doesn’t bother me. I’m going to MAUI.
As it turned out, this was the worst of the entire flight. My daughter–who disagrees philosophically with elevators–was not a fan of takeoff, but with Mommy, her stuffed Piglet, and her favorite super-soft blanket, she hung in there. The most pleasant surprise was my son, who was the yin to his sister’s yang, pointing intently at the window as we rocketed skyward. Moments later, he was in my father’s window-seat lap, giggling at shrinking houses and cars. My father, who rarely sees the Twins since he travels during the week (and whose idea it was for this trip in the first place), was on cloud nine as he coincidentally pointed out the fluffy cumulus tufts floating into view. I then looked across the aisle and saw my wife and daughter snuggled up and both fast asleep. I couldn’t help but smile.
Silence had finally fallen upon the aircraft. And it was glorious.
All right, I thought, breathing a sigh of relief. NOW I’m on vacation.
This is Part 2 of the high-flying adventure that is the TwinfaMaui Saga.
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If not, please refer to the ripped-in-half emergency card in your front compartment.