Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leaving on a jet plane ... or not

Yes, if you've been reading my daughter's blog, you know we are all doing The Waltons thing at my son's house on the Olympic Peninsula. Vacation. Two weeks. Five kids. One dog. Four adults.

Bring it on.

In order to get here, we had to drive across the state of Massachusetts, give or take three hours and tunnel traffic. I had never driven through Boston before but Jenn was a good navigator and we managed to find the pre-flight parking lot without missing a turn. After unloading most of the car trunk, assorted backpacks, suitcases and American Girl dolls, a shuttle dropped us at the airport. The girls had to carry their own loads and were surprisingly cooperative. In fact, once at the airport, we had another three hours to kill, and after muffins and bottled water, they were still holding up well. What more could we ask for?

How about a plane that leaves on time? We got the munchkins on to the plane and negotiated window seats for both of them. We were at the rear of the plane, Jenn and Hannah a row ahead and across the aisle. Best we could do.

Just when we had stowed our gear and settled in for a seven-hour flight, Mother Nature decided to play a very dirty trick.

Sophie (peering out window and chewing gum for takeoff): "Why aren't we moving yet?"

Babci: "We should be going any minute now. All the people are onboard."

Pilot (over intercom): "I'm sorry to announce that we have been put on 'complete ground stop'. There are severe thunderstorms moving through the area. We will update in fifteen minutes."

Silent groans, I'm sure, throughout the plane. I stretch up and catch Jenn's eye as she looks back and gives me a fake thumbs-up.

Fifteen minutes later, severe squall rocks the plane and whips through the airport. Fifteen minutes after that, sun is shining once again. Thirty minutes after that, pilot announces that we are good to go.

Sophie (excited): "Look, the plane's moving. We're backing up."

Babci (turning delay into learning experience): "Yes, but now we have to wait in line on the runway. See all those (20 and counting) airplanes in front of us, Sophie? Let's try to identify the airlines by the markings on their tails."

Babies are now crying loudly. People are breaking the seatbelt-fastened rule and lining up for the one set of lavatories near our seats. No one is happy.

Finally, plane takes off; Sophie swallows gum; Babci closes eyes and tries to cope with the fact that they will arrive in Seattle at roughly 11pm Pacific time, 2am body-clock time, a mere nine hours in an airplane with a small child and another smaller child across the aisle with her exhausted momma.

Son and grandson arrive at airport two hours early, due to fact that computer info was faulty and did not reveal that plane had a two-hour delay in Boston.

Stewards and flight attendants are cranky, run out of food by time they reach back rows. Babci gets free wine because there is no food to give her grandchild. Luckily, flight DVD players work. Sophie almost falls asleep but then sits up to tell Babci that she is feeling nauseous. Babci searches for barf bag and spends rest of flight with left hand patting Sophie and right hand holding the bag. This isn't the first time that Babci's been left holding the bag and probably won't be the last. Finally, sleep wins out over upset stomach. While Sophie uses Babci's left arm as her pillow, Babci is thinking a second glass of wine is not a bad idea. Unfortunately, all the liquor has been consumed; complimentary drinks were a big hit. Fellow passengers are feeling cranky too.

Hallelujah, plane lands. Sophie wakes up in time to observe the lights of the city and is sure that she saw the Space Needle.

We disembark. Walk forever and finally find son and grandson standing faithfully at baggage claim. Airline reps direct everyone to farthest baggage carousel, then redirect everyone to another location. People are now swearing that they will never fly this airline again.

Kids, at first shy, are now rocking and rolling while Jenn and Babci try to pull all seven hundred pieces of their luggage from baggage carousel. Son is trying to corral two nieces and one son as Sophie tries to kiss her cousin, Ben. "Eww!" Ben loves his girl cousins but this is asking too much. However, by time all backpacks, dolls, and larger luggage are in hand, Sophie and Ben are holding hands.

The two firstborns continue to babble and giggle from the rear, rear seat of the van as Hannah falls asleep and three adults catch up. Joe drives us to his house which is another two and a half hours away. So funny to think that you can still drive that far west of Seattle without meeting the Pacific Ocean.

I haven't changed my wristwatch. We pull into his driveway at 5am.

Long day's journey into night. That was one week ago.

Seeing all five grandkids under the same roof for the very first time?



Eternally said...

That East-to-West swing can be brutal, for sure. Especially with (and for) kids. Makes me wonder if it was ever easier back when air travel was maybe more glamorous and less of a sausage-stuffing exercise like it is today.

Here's wishing you safe travels. I hope your trip back is marked by good weather, aeronautical competence, and the bonus a quicker flight home with a cooperative jet stream.

And in the meantime, soak up all that precious family time. Everyone will remember the time together far longer than they will the travel saga.

Terry said...

You are in my time zone! Hope you have a wonderful time. Olympic Peninsula is hard to beat as a summer destination. If you get bored hop on the train and come on down to Portland for a day. (Only 3.5 hours (from Seattle) and a beautiful trip) I need a break from packing and cleaning and all that moving stuff.

geogirl said...

Goodness I've fallen behind here. I need to catch up!

I use to love to fly but modern airline realities have destroyed that. Now it is a chore that must be endured...preferably with medication. ;-)