A toddler on my hip and armed with a packed bag full of distraction tools, I boarded our flight. My first solo trip with an almost two year old, Mira Joey, had not been as bad as I’d expected. If you erase the ten minute fit of “I all done” from your mind, it really wasn’t so terrible. So surely this flight home was going to be much better.
No one avoids eye contact more than people on a plane when a mother and a baby are making their way up the aisle. Newspapers are slowly scooted into the seats next to them and you can almost see the sweat building on brows at the thought of being trapped next to us on the flight.
I spied a sweet looking older lady and asked her if she minds kids. She quickly responded that she loves kids and we moved right in.
We made some small talk and the older woman told me this was her very first flight alone. She was in her 80s and was on her way to visit a cousin for her birthday and she asked if I could show her how to use the seatbelt. She had one of those hard case carryons only grandmas have and struggled to get it under the seat.
I told her this was my first trip alone with a toddler and not to worry we’d figure it out together.
She spent most of the flight reading the obituaries in the paper and joked with me she always has to see who’s even still around.
I spent one hour and 55 minutes filled with three sticker books, five board books, two color wonder coloring books, ten packs of smarties, one ziploc of marshmallows, three games on the IPAD, ten throws of the sippy cup and it had to be 105 slams of the airplane window.
“Where go da clouds, mommy?” over and over and over again.
As we started to descend, I thanked the lady for her patience and told her to enjoy her trip.
She waived to Mira and looked at me and said, “you’re a wonderful mother”.
My heart stopped and I hardly knew what to say.
“Just the way you are with her, you’re a really wonderful mother.”
The woman didn’t know my story. She didn’t know my husband had died. She didn’t know why I was traveling alone or that I really do everything alone. She didn’t know how monumental this trip was for me. How much Joe and I had loved traveling. So much so that he’d take my picture by the “expert traveler” sign near security because he said it looked like me. She didn’t know that I had gotten engaged on an airplane and every time I walk on I feel a slight sting to my heart.
She was just a kind woman who was also a little scared and was taking her adventure head on and with an open heart.