Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
My mind's autobiography will forever title THAT day "THE LONGEST DAY OF MY LIFE". I learned many things that day, most of which I will share with you now... others are too painful to relive.
Let us begin at the beginning shall we?
Our flight from Bahrain to London-Heathrow was to depart at 1:20 AM, such a lovely time of day to begin the "journey of a lifetime". It was an international flight and I (the FOOLISH-FOOLISH woman that I am) would be traveling solo with my adorable children. We arrived at the airport to allow for the inevitable delays that come with child-travel. A simple reminder: at the time of the trip Tanner was 5 and a half and Gavin was 20 months (do you see where this story is headed?)
We get to the airport say good-bye to Daddy whom we already look forward to seeing in America 2 weeks later then off to the ticket counter. My very sleepy and now cranky boys make it through security without incident but I am already seeing how difficult traveling with my hands full will be - Thank God for my stroller.
THE STROLLER: "Let me count thy ways"... In my humble opinion is one of the greatest inventions that came out of the 1900's. It is easily pushed, can haul the baby's diaper bag, Mommy's purse (as well as the much needed cup of coffee at now 11:30PM) not to mention the child that it was designed to transport. That night it was also helping me lug the 20 pound car seat (another wonderful tool when traveling).
Sooooo, imagine my shock and total dismay when the British Airways agent with her beautiful carefree smile informs me that I won't be able to take my stroller with me. IMAGINE THE SHOCK!!!! WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO?!?!?! I NEED THIS STROLLER LADY!!!! OK, deep breaths, I MUST have misunderstood, RIGHT?!?!?! Nope. She said that all strollers must be checked to the final destination, no room on the plane. There were only 20 who boarded the plane that night (I mean morning).It could have had it's own seat, it's own row for that matter! That my friends is how the LOOOOOONGEST day of my life begins. She took my beloved security blanket of a travel companion and I was crestfallen, seriously crestfallen.
So there I was carrying my purse, backpack, diaper bag, 20 pound car seat AND a 30 pound "baby" while directing a crying 5 year old who was proclaiming how unfair it was that he had to walk AND cary his own backpack. GOOD LORD, really? Somehow I manage to get all this crap and myself on the plane without a single agent or "attendant" to assist me in any way. Lovely. That's customer service in 2010 for you!
We get to our seats and I notice how incredibly warm it was on board, then I notice how warm is just a joke - IT WAS HOT! When Paul dropped us off at the airport the thermometer read 103 degrees so I can only begin to imagine what the temp was on the plane. We sat out on the tarmac for over an hour without AC. I had two crying kids on my hands, it's now 2AM and I start crying myself. It's only when I become a blubbering mess that the flight attendant notices me and asks if there is "anything" she can to make this trip easier for me? EASIER?!?! EASIER?!?! So I unload on her about how it's incredibly stifling on board, my kids are beyond hysterical, I'm exhausted, it's the middle of the night AND THEY TOOK MY STROLLER!!! When will this plane take off already?
Eventually the plane leaves an hour later and the boys settle down, Gavin and Tanner restlessly "sleep" for about two hours off and on and we arrive at Heathrow at 6:30AM... let the games begin.
I (again without the assistance of the airline "staff") carry all the earlier listed items down the stairs from the plane to the waiting bus. We ride about 5 minutes to a terminal where out of nowhere a woman appears (who I will tell you now is one of two angels God sends that day to help me make it through this crazy experience). She informs me that her name is Basma and that she is "here to help you along" on my "journey". OK, strange, but who am I to argue with an angel?
To this day I'm not sure she really existed, maybe just a figment of my imagination - we will never know. Basma and I begin to chat and she said she was "supposed to help" me with the car-seat. Awesome, I now weigh 20 pounds less (WOO-HOO!!!) She was not on my flight nor was she going to my next flight. She had "another stop" later in the day. She said she was from Saudi and that she planned on visiting a daughter in Denver, CO. This kind woman made two buss transfers, walked over 2 miles of airport with me and the boys (hauling the car-seat) and sat with us for 4 hours in the terminal. She wouldn't let me buy her breakfast or lunch. I did however get her to agree to a cup of joe. Then all four of us got on another tram to make it to my gate where she waited in line with me through security and wished me a pleasant flight.
NOW, here's where it get even stranger... insert second apparition from God. A beautiful young American approaches me after I get through security and said she "needed to carry" my car-seat. "Needed", really? This is two times now. She grabbed the car-seat and we walked in. I thanked her and then I said that we would need to look for seats in the waiting area, she said "no, need. My Mom and I have saved two seats for you, the baby can sit on your lap." I looked around and realized she had been here for quite some time because the place was PACKED and I also noticed that there was NO WAY she could have seen me approach security because the windows to security were blacked out. How had she known I was coming? She couldn't see through the windowed wall. Again, an angel. Later I learned that she and her Mom had visited her brother for his birthday in London and that she has 8 kids at home. 8 kids, she looked my age! And get this, her youngest son is named - yup, you guessed it, Gavin. She carried my car-seat to our assigned seating and buckled it in then disappeared.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, this trip doesn't sound so bad: two angels from God, not too shabby. You're right, but this is where the trip turns around. Just as I get my confidence back, in walks EVIL.
That day, EVIL was dressed in a tacky polyester tan pantsuit and running shoes. She was in her late 60's and was in no way going to let me "enjoy" the flight. Not on HER watch, no way Jose!
EVIL announced at a rather loud volume "OH GREAT! YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! I HAVE TO SIT NEXT TO A KID ON THIS 12+ HOUR FLIGHT!!! THIS IS NOT HAPPENING TO ME!" to which I screamed in my head "OH GREAT! YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING MEI HAVE TO SIT NEXT TO THIS HAG FOR THE NEXT 12+ HOURS?!?!?! THIS IS NOT HAPPENING TO ME!" I could go on for days about all the unpleasantries she bestowed upon me in those never-ending 12 hours but I will spare you the nasty details. Looking back now I think the "funniest" things she said to Gavin were:
"I'm not interested in any of your baby PARAPHERNALIA" when he offered her his pacifier. And when he kicked her husband's seat (who was sitting right in front of Gavin) she shouted "NO BABY, NO!!!! DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORD NO?!?!? YOU BETTER LEARN THAT WORD, DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!" Sweet, what a beautiful lady she was. Remind me to send her a Christmas card this year.
Finally the flight landed around 2:30PM Texas time at Dallas, DFW (10:00PM Bahrain time - 24 hours since our journey half way across the world began). The sweet lady with the son also named Gavin helped me carry the car seat out of the plane, on a tram, across the airport, through customs and to the International Exits door. Just as the earlier encountered angel, she simply disappeared after I thanked her and gave her a big hug.
After the hug I gathered up all our belongings to face the double doors that automatically opened and let blindingly amazing American sunlight stream in. It was like the reward for surviving the hellatious trip... and at the end of those beams of light stood two of the most breathtakingly beautiful faces I have ever seen.
The faces of my parents. It was all worth it. ALL of it.