Monday, January 5, 2015

"Yeah! We made it!" A Holiday Recap


Well that was fun. 

It's been about two weeks since we last met and, if your holidays were anything like mine, you're just now able to exhale.
O'Hare at 5 a.m. Though this picture doesn't really capture it
the place was absolutely packed. In related news, O'hare
is not the place to find "morning people."

Mrs. Blackwell, the boy and I had Christmas at our place with her folks and her brother. We did a pared-down version of Christmas dinner, which deprived me of one time-honored holiday stress. It was quiet, pleasant and just what we needed. 

The family departed on the 26th and a couple days later, we were at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport bound for my parents' place in Raleigh North Carolina. 

In Raleigh, I've got both my parents, my two brothers, my sister-in-law, two nieces, a nephew and a yellow Labrador retriever that my father has trained to jump on kitchen counters in pursuit of whatever holiday delicacy might might meet his gaze. 

But before we got to my folks place we had to deal with the plane flight. Regular readers of this space might remember last year's vomit-saturated Christmas flight in which the boy re-set the bar for his parents' ability to tolerate the previously unimaginable. 

I'm pleased to say that this year's flight offered a similar, though less repugnant scenario. 

We started off with a loud bang as the boy decided to announce his presence to the always-patient and tolerant crowd at O'Hare — while we were going through security. Specifically, it was just prior to walking through the metal/bomb/anything-lethal detector, that the boy decided to blast into orbit. 

He goes red-faced, drops to the floor, flails and cries loud enough for everyone in security to hear. Because going through security isn't enough of a stress-filled cattle call, why not add an inexplicably infuriated toddler to the mix? 

In the split second before a driver's vehicle is involved in an accident, time can slow down. In that moment, a person can consider all manner of thoughts before impact. 

Not this time, thank you very much. 
Watching the boy drop to the ground, flailing, wailing and rolling, I had a similar experience. During my split second I considered the millions of "O'Hare germs" and unique dirt the boy was picking up from the ground while performing his take on the funky chicken.

Initially, Mrs. Blackwell handled the boy and pealed him off the linoleum. I gathered the trays loaded with our phones, wallets, boarding passes and the luggage from the conveyor belt as it rolled from the screening machine.

Once I frantically rammed my boots back on and shoved my valuables back in my pockets, it was Mrs. Blackwell's turn to collect her things and my turn to collect the boy. 

A couple of excruciating minutes later and with our belongings secured, the boy settled down and we navigated the 8.5 mile-walk from security to our gate.   

Throughout this part of our journey the boy calmed himself and by the time we got to the gate he was a delightful little guy. We prayed our good fortune would continue for the flight. 

To our utter astonishment, it did. 

Master Blackwell had a window seat with Mrs. Blackwell in the middle and me on the aisle. That said, the boy hardly used his seat. Instead the foot room proved an ample play space and, except for a couple of brief excursions to his mother's lap, he stayed in that area. 

And, instead of crying, he unleashed a steady stream of cute toddler babble.

"We're on a plane," he exclaimed several times. "There's mommy and there's daddy. Hi Mommy. Hi Daddy."

It was a cute scene and hardly intrusive to other passengers, which is really all one can hope for under the circumstances. 

And then it happened. 

At about the 70-minute mark of our 90-minute flight the baby babble stopped. The climbing, crawling and exploring all drew to a halt too. 

Toddlers. The only demographic for whom coach offers
enough room. 
The boy stood next to his mother's feet, leaning on his seat, his hands clutching his favorite blanket. And then he took a deep breath, furrowed his brow and grunted. Then he grunted again and, for good measure, he grunted once more.

Mrs. Blackwell looked at me and, though her eyes already said it, she uttered the words anyways: "I think he's pooping."

The words left her mouth and hit my ears just nanoseconds before the smell hit my nose. 


Mrs. Blackwell is always quick to change a diaper but, dear reader, I requested and was given the aisle seat, thus any trips to the bathroom with the boy would be mine to make.

With just a few minutes before landing I wondered aloud if we should just wait until we were on the ground. I floated the idea, yet the look on Mrs. Blackwell's face indicated this was not an option.

The diaper needed to be changed — immediately. So, I grabbed the boy, who was still in a great mood, and navigated the narrow path between seats to the rear of the plane, leaving in our wake an ungodly smell for passengers to enjoy

I'm not sure if you've had the pleasure of changing a toddler inside the bathroom of a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 but I can assure you it's an exercise worth skipping.

Our flight attendant had told us there was a baby changing station in the bathroom but, unless it was smaller than a seat-back tray, she lied. 

With no platform to rest the boy upon, I was forced to ask him to stand while praying that the contents of his diaper weren't in an alliance with gravity to make this one unspeakably ugly scene. 

Fortune shined on us both. And, as he stood, he found a lighted button to press and distract himself. Then it hit me that we were in a bathroom and he was putting his hands everywhere.

The next thing to hit me was the door to the bathroom as another passenger tried to get in. I leaned my back into the door to close it, said "Occupied!" and then used the door lock. 
A quiet moment at Mom and Dad's. 

At that moment the captain's voice came on the intercom and asked flight attendants to prepare for landing. This was followed quickly with the thuds and squeaks of the landing gear being deployed.

In what has to be a first for air travel, we were early. 

What happened next was a blur. All I can say with certainty is that the old diaper was disposed of properly, the new diaper was fastened and we made it back to our seats in short order. 

The boy offered up a bit of displeasure but even he could sense the urgency of the moment and refrained from a full-on cry.

Shortly thereafter, we were on the ground and though I was out of breath and sweating, I knew I was lucky. 

As we rolled to the gate the plane was silent, except the boy who dipped into his bag of baby babble and offered his thoughts to his parents and nearby passengers. 

"Yeah! We made it!" he proclaimed.

Yes we did buddy. Yes we did.

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