Traveling with kids…ah, the curiousity, the excitement, the four million questions every thirty seconds of a five hour plane ride — what memorable and wonderful family building moments we have shared in the past two months. I sit in a Starbucks writing to you today because I do not actually have a desk and chair in my home… though we hope that our stuff will be showing up at the end of this week. Then there’s just the little issue of unpacking thirty thousand boxes and putting everything where it will go… but that’s another drama.
We spent almost a month driving around the great state of California, just me, Turbo, Lunchbox and absolutely anything that we could stuff into a small four door car. This included two carseats, a stroller with a stand-on attachment, many stuffed animals, Legos and random assorted hotwheels, a sleeping bag, two pillows, diapers, wipes, overnight diapers, etcetera, etcetera. It was a bit of a mess trying to unpack and repack the car at every destination — plus, California is kind of big and we actually went through several climate changes while there, so I had the trunk working like a huge suitcase, shufflling jeans to the bottom, shorts to the top; stashing sweaters over here and tank tops down there. When it came time to reduce this all down to the gear that we’d fly east with, well… that was hard. My mother in law shipped a large box of our stuff out to us, and I left a good amount of stuff in the car when it shipped (shhhh!) In the end, I was dropped off at the airport with three large pieces of luggage, a stroller with a stand-on platform attached, three carryons, and a carseat for Lunchbox. Oh, and two small kids. In otherwords, I was basically immobile once delivered to the curb of the United terminal at LAX.
I’m typically airport girl. I love traveling, and have done so enough for work and pleasure to have my airport approach down to a system. A finely tuned machine. It works best when I’m on my own, and I’ve streamlined the process so as to move very quickly, carry very little and do the absolute minimum of waiting. I can’t control security, but I can certainly have my laptop out, baggie ready and shoes off before I even get to the conveyor belt. I can choose the shortest line, dart into it quickly and plop my carryon luggage up on the belt before the long line has even crawled a step. I can have my boarding pass and ID all ready to go and slip them effortlessly back into the right pocket of my pants before stepping through the beepy thing that hates metal. And I can sit at the gate, quietly sipping my coffee and eating my breakfast, glowing with the confidence that my luggage will absolutely fit in the overhead bin and that I will waste no time waiting for checked bags. Bag checking is for suckers.
This system broke down the second I found myself on the curb at LAX surrounded by my luggage and children, being eyed warily by those speedy carryon only business travelers who moved like I once could. I might have broken down crying right there if I hadn’t happened to glance over and see another woman standing on the curb looking less than confident. She had at least five big bags at her feet, three kids running around her, and three carseats to contend with. She also had a seabag at her feet, and I knew she was a fellow military spouse. When I finally got moving with all my crap, kids safely installed on the stroller contraption, I paused next to her — maybe to offer her some empathy, but mostly to get some for myself.
“Military?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Me too,” I told her.
“We’re moving,” she said, indicating all of her belongings.
“So are we!” I laughed, nodding at the bags hanging off every appendage. “Where are you headed?” I asked her.
“Hawaii!” she said, and looked really excited. Then her husband returned and picked up half the bags she had at her feet. I was glad to see that she had help. And sort of sad that I didn’t…but the Major was helping… he had found us a house, we just had to get there!
“Good luck!” I told her, as I shuffled on towards the curbside check in like a desperate Madison Avenue exec approaching the only bar for miles around. (I may have watched too many episodes of Mad Men last night.)
I hope she’s gotten where she was headed and that her family is more settled than mine at this point. I’m just glad I bumped into her — even that casual exchange of words helped me remember that I’m not the only one struggling with all the difficulties that military life (hell, any life, really!) can present! There are lots of us out there, moms who make things happen for our families because we have no choice in the matter and because we can’t imagine NOT doing it. The airport experience wasn’t my favorite part of the journey, but it is one that I’ll remember because you know what? I did it!
When the Major picked us up on the other end and all our bags came off the baggage claim, he picked up a couple and struggled with how to hold half of it and manage the kids. “Wait a minute,” he said. “How did you carry all of this and the two kids by yourself on the other end?”
I told him the truth. I honestly don’t know! But somehow I managed it. Things work out when they have to.