B&B reaches across the aisle and caresses my ankle in a gesture of affection.
Me: Quietly, from the side of my mouth, “I’m not really in the mood to be touched right now, thank you.”
Especially by you.
B&B: Acting wounded, but attempting to suppress a grin, “OK. But I have two words for you.” He holds up one finger, “Suntan,” he holds up a second finger, “Lotion.”
Me: Leaning into the aisle towards him, “That’s a coincidence because I have two words for you,” I hold up one finger, “F,” I hold up a second finger, “You.”
We are now drawing the attention of our fellow plane passengers, who are watching our whispered across-the-aisle dialogue like a tennis match. And it’s B&B’s serve.
B&B: Brow furrowed, “You have the better memory of the two of us, so can you help me out with something? How many times did security root through our suitcase? Was it once? Or was it twice? I forget. I do remember they had to confiscate the,” he holds up one finger, “Suntan,” he holds up a second finger, “Lotion. But I forget just how many times they searched the actual suitcase. Do you remember? You have SUCH a great memory!”
He places his hands under his chin and flutters his eyelids in an attempt to make me laugh.
I smile. Because I’ve decided how I’m going to kill him.
Me: “Stop talking to me, please. If I am trapped on this airplane with you, at least don’t remind me that you’re here.”
He pretends to zip his lips closed, then swallows the invisible key. Which is impossible, because if it’s zipped closed, how does he then swallow the stupid key?
It’s day one of our Disneyworld vacation. It’s not even 7AM. And I am seething mad at B&B. With whom I’ll be spending every second of the next eight days.
Find a happy place. Find a happy place. Find a freakin’ happy place.
I hand out coloring books and crayons to the Verb, who’s next to me, and the Interrogator, who’s next to him in the window seat.
Me: “Here you go, guys. These trays pull down so that you can color like you’re sitting at a desk. Interrogator, please stop kicking the chair in front of you. Thanks, buddy.”
With the two younger boys momentarily busy, I’m able to relax for a minute with my thoughts.
Goddamn B&B. I told him. I told him, and he laughed in response. Correction, he GUFFAWED in response.
I look over at the Interrogator, who’s wearing his figure 8 and protectively patting his right collarbone.
My sweet injured little boy. Forced to sprint through the airport lugging his backpack filled with Legos and chapter books because B&B had guffawed at me.
The flight attendant walks through the aisle. She stops next to me. She takes a cursory glance at B&B, then leans down and asks me, “It was his fault, wasn’t it? That you nearly missed the flight.”
Before I have the chance to nod my head in agreement, B&B’s face and hand appear at her hip. He points at me.
B&B: “Actually, it was her fault. Security searched our suitcase…how many times, Beth? Because of the,” he holds up one finger, “Suntan,” he holds up a second finger, “Lotion.” His head disappears the instant before I swing at it.
First I will cut out his tongue.
The flight attendant looks at me. She shakes her head and rolls her eyes.
Flight attendant: “Definitely his fault. And I’ll bet you packed for all four of the kids, right?”
Before I have an opportunity to concur, B&B busts into his best impression of the homicidal freak-show Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs.
B&B: “It places the lotion in the basket!”
Next I will make him eat his tongue.
The flight attendant shakes her head and walks past us. The lady sitting behind me taps my shoulder. I turn to look at her through the crack between my seat and the Verb’s. She brings her face close to the crack.
Lady behind me: “It was your husband’s fault. I can tell by the look on your face. They almost closed the door to the plane! He cut it too close.”
Again, before I can agree, her face is replaced in the crack between the seats by the face of her husband.
Husband of lady behind me: “I don’t know. He said something about suntan lotion, and you had no defense.”
B&B: Channeling Buffalo Bill, this time more loudly, “It places the lotion in the basket!”
Me: Venomously to B&B, “You are embarrassing yourself and your children.”
This is a blatant lie. Nothing embarrasses B&B. He is one of those rare birds who doesn’t care what others think of him. And the kids are busy coloring and playing with handheld electronics. They haven’t a clue what’s transpiring between their parents.
B&B responds by holding up one finger, then another, while deliberately mouthing the words, “Suntan. Lotion.”
Then I will cut off his index and middle fingers.
Husband of lady behind me: “See?”
I glare at him through the crack between the seats.
Then I will make this clown eat the fingers.
B&B is a risk taker. And a rule breaker. He is an adrenaline junkie. He does his best work when his hand is held over an open flame. That’s just how he operates. He loves stress.
I am more of the hurry up and wait variety. It’s much less stressful. I try to avoid stress whenever possible.
All that yin/yang, opposites attract stuff is certainly romantic in theory. Toss a couple kids, a few cars, a mortgage that’s been refinanced more than once and over a decade of marriage into the mix? My yin aches to kick his yang square in the balls.
Neither of us has done much traveling since before we had kids. Waldorf was born just days after September 11, 2001.
I flop on the sofa that cloud-free, beautiful morning, and will my first baby to be born.
Me: To my painfully swollen stomach, “Please be born today. Please, little boy? Please don’t wait until tomorrow.”
I turn on the TV and struggle to make sense of the two gaping holes in the Twin Towers. After the first tower falls, my sister in law comes running through my front door in tears. After the second tower falls, B&B comes running through my front door in tears. Little Sister is hysterical. She is unable to reach Flyboy, her fiancé, a pilot who is in the air when all planes are grounded on this tragic day in our nation’s history.
Me: To my painfully swollen stomach, “Please don’t be born today. Please, little boy? Please wait until tomorrow.”
Before 9/11, it was perfectly acceptable to arrive 15 minutes before your flight was scheduled for takeoff.
Post 9/11, you have to arrive 90-120 minutes before your flight is scheduled for takeoff. Particularly if you’re traveling with multiple kids. Thanks to my fertile womb and my affinity for a second cocktail, this is our current predicament.
The evening before we fly…with multiple kids…to Disneyworld, the boys are in bed. Asleep in the clothes they’ll wear on the plane. The suitcases are zipped, closed, and weighed. Last minute items are packed. I lay down next to B&B for what I know will be an unrestful sleep.
Me: “It’s $25 to check a bag. So we’ll only check one bag. I put the suntan lotion in the suitcase we’re checking so that security won’t confiscate it.”
B&B: “Smart move.”
Me: “Our flight is at 6:40AM. We need to be at the airport by 4:40AM. 5AM at the latest.”
He guffaws in response.
Me: Unamused, “That’s what the airline recommends.”
B&B: Shaking his head, “No way. That’s ludicrous. We’d have to leave at 4AM to arrive at that time. We’re not leaving at 4AM. Let the kids sleep a little. There won’t be any traffic. It’s not an international flight. We’ll be fine.”
Me: Unconvinced and beginning to stress, “I disagree. We should aim for 4AM. We can’t expect these idiot kids to run through the airport. Especially if we’re only checking one suitcase. That means we’re carrying four other suitcases.”
B&B: Guffawing, “We won’t be running through the airport.”
Me: Blood pressure rising, “I am telling you, I will seriously kill you if we miss the flight because we don’t leave early enough.”
Rule breaking fool.
Now I’ll never get to sleep.
I wake the kids at 3:40 AM, brush their teeth, and pack their toothbrushes.
Me: “B&B, we’re ready. The kids and I are ready. You haven’t put the suitcases in the minivan yet?”
B&B: “No, but we’re fine. Just relax. I’m going to put all of the bikes into the shed before we leave. Then I’ll pack the suitcases.”
Me: Trying to remain calm, “I thought you were going to do that last night?”
B&B: Slightly defensive, “Well, I didn’t get around to it last night. So I’m going to do it now.”
Tick tock, tick tock
Me: Quietly, “I was hoping to make a quick getaway before Waldorf realizes that Severus ran out into the dark and hasn’t returned yet.”
*Severus Snape is one of our two cats. He and Waldorf are BFF’s.
Waldorf: “Mommy, have you seen Severus?”
Me: “Waldorf, Severus ran out very early and hasn’t come back yet. You might not be able to say goodbye to him before we leave. But you can look for him for 5 minutes because that’s when we’re leaving,” I look straight at B&B as I say this, “In 5 minutes, right, Daddy? We sure don’t want to miss our flight.”
Behind Waldorf’s back, I bare my fangs at B&B.
5 minutes turns into 30+ minutes, and I’m torn between busting out some yoga poses to find my inner zen and managing my mounting stress with a mimosa at 4:30 AM. And I’m leaning heavily toward the mimosa because I’m a runner, so I don’t know any yoga poses.
B&B finally takes the driver’s seat, and we leave the house. I look at the clock in the car.
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock
B&B: “You realize I’m stopping at Wawa, don’t you?”
I turn at him and hiss. He identifies this behavior, correctly, as one baby step away from my giving him a come to Jesus in front of the kids. Which I typically try to avoid doing in front of the kids.
But even I have my limits.
B&B: “Fine. I’ll get something at the airport.”
We arrive at the airport in record time. Thanks to minimal traffic and B&B’s lead foot. Park in long term parking, unload the suitcases, unload the strollers, schlep the kids with the suitcases and our carry-on bags to the shuttle stop. And wait in the dark.
Tick tock. Tickety tick tock.
I look at my watch, breathe deeply, nearly choke on the fumes from I-95, and refuse to look at or speak to B&B.
Son of a bitch. My blood pressure is through the goddamn roof because he didn’t listen to me.
B&B: “Beth, we’re fine on time. It’s only 6 AM. The plane doesn’t leave until 6:40 AM. Be cool.”
Shut up. And don’t tell me to be cool. Can’t you see I’m ignoring you?
Shuttle arrives. We drag the kids, the luggage, the strollers, and the carry-on bags aboard. 10 minutes later, we arrive at our terminal.
Me: “Hi, we want to check this bag, please?”
Airline Employee: “Sure. I’ll just change your flight information.”
Me: Smiling, “OK, thanks. Wait…why?”
Airline Employee: “Oh, you’re too late to check a bag on this flight. You’ll have to wait until the next available flight to Orlando in order to check this bag.”
The noises of the airport immediately fade…and are replaced by the thumping of my pulse. It’s rapid. And it’s fueled by anger. Borderline mania.
Me: “Boys, earmuffs, please.”
All four of my children cover their ears with their hands.
I turn to B&B.
Me: “I am going to fucking kill you.”
The airline employee looks quizzically between the two of us.
Interrogator: “Mom, can we take our earmuffs off yet?”
I shake my head in response.
Me: To B&B, “I fucking told you. And you didn’t listen. And now I’m going to fucking kill you.”
Airline Employee: “So, did you want me to book the next available flight or not?”
B&B: Grabbing the suitcase we’d hoped to check, “No, thanks. Do you think we can still make our flight?”
Airline Employee: Looking at the clock and frowning, “You’d better run.”
B&B: “Boys, take off your earmuffs. Are you listening to me? Grab a bag. Follow Mommy. And RUN!”
Tick tock, to the tickety tock.
Up the escalators with all of our bags, all of our carry on items, all of our kids and two strollers. We run towards security. There are at least 100 people in line ahead of us. I look at B&B, tears forming in my eyes. But we catch a break, and they take us in the significantly shorter family line.
B&B: “We’re fine, Beth. Totally fine. We have 20 minutes.”
Don’t talk to me. I am going to have to kill you in front of all four of our children. And then I’ll have to spend all of your life insurance money on their therapy. Don’t. Talk. To. Me.
Shoes off, belts off, pockets emptied, iPhones in bowls, laptop unpacked, strollers collapsed, carry-on bags and suitcases placed on conveyor belt.
Tick tock, tickety tickety tock.
Me: “Verb and Interrogator, stay close to Mommy. And walk straight toward that nice lady when she tells you to walk through this machine.”
Interrogator: “Mom, what’s this machine, Mom? Is it gonna hurt? Is it an X-ray, Mom?”
Me: “No talking right now, Interrogator. Listening ears only. I’ll tell you about the machine once we get on the plane.” If we get on the plane.
We proceed, single file, through the body scanner. In my state of near hysteria, I forget to suck in my gut as I walk through.
Oops. Sorry to the airline employee who will have that image singed on her brain for the foreseeable future.
We collect our strollers, iPhones, laptop, belts, shoes, carry-on bags, and suitcases from the conveyor belt.
Me: “Boys, get ready to run again. And no questions, please, until we are on the plane.” If we get on the plane.
Airline Employee: “Ma’am, is this your bag?”
I hate when people call me ma’am.
Me: I look at the bag she’s holding and recognize it as one of our suitcases. “That one? Yes. That’s ours.”
Airline Employee: “I’m going to have to search it.”
Tickety tick to the mutha fuckin tock.
Me: “Shit. OK.”
Interrogator, “Mom, you said a bad word. A curse word. You’re not supposed to say that word.”
Me: “Sorry, honey, you’re right. Mommy is just stressed because we’re running late.”
B&B: “Is that the bag we were going to check? Isn’t the suntan lotion in that bag?”
Me: Shaking the suitcase in my hand, “No, THIS is the bag we were going to check. It contains the suntan lotion.”
I immediately turn to the airline employee who’s checking my bag.
Me: “Listen, I don’t know what’s in there. But our flight leaves in,” I look at my watch, “10 minutes. And we have 4 kids. And we’re going to Disneyworld for the first time. Can you please look very quickly and give me my bag back? So that we don’t miss our flight? Because if we miss our flight my kids will be devastated. And I’ll have to kill my husband because it’s his fault we’re late. Then they’ll be devastated about that too.”
The airline employee locates and extracts the four brand new containers of suntan lotion. WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY DOING IN THERE?! I glance over at B&B. He’s looking in our direction. If he sees that I’ve packed the suntan lotion in the wrong bag, he will razz me about it until I’m too old to remember my own name. I spread my arms wide and stand on my toes in an effort to block his view.
But he’s so tall and I’m so not tall. Plan B, move onto plan B! I decide to mount the table that holds our suitcase in an attempt to block his view. I’ve got one knee up on that bad boy, and I hear clapping. And laughing.
Foiled. Shit. And shit. And SHIT.
The airline employee looks at me, half smiling, “Sorry, I have to run it through again. But I’d kill him too if he made me miss my flight.”
That’s the plan, lady.
I glance over at B&B. By my calculations, he has maybe 15 minutes left on this earth before I kill him. Yet I’ve never seen him more satisfied. More joyful. Our luggage is scattered around him. And our children…some with shoes, some without…are scaling the bags and jumping from one suitcase to another. He doesn’t bother to correct them. Doesn’t even remember they exist. For him, there’s only me.
Me and my suntan lotion screw up.
She runs our suitcase through the scanner again. I reach out to take it from her.
Airline employee: “Sorry. Something else is showing up in here. I have to search it again.”
B&B bends in half in a fit of laughter. He pulls himself to his full height and wipes his eyes of the tears his laughter has just produced.
B&B: Still laughing, “What else did you put in there? Shampoo?”
Me: Frantic, “I don’t know! I don’t remember!”
B&B: Smiling, “How could you not remember? Oh, that’s right, you obviously didn’t remember to pack the suntan lotion in the right suitcase.”
Me: “I packed those suitcases 2 days ago! And I barely slept last night! And I don’t know where Severus is! And we are going to miss our flight because you said we would be fine on time! Stop talking to me!”
The airline employee finds the J&J lavender scented lotion I apply to the Interrogator and the Verb after their baths.
I love the smell of that lotion on them. I could use a whiff of that lavender to relax my shit right about now.
She hands me the suitcase. And we sprint in the direction of our gate.
A US Airways pilot puts his hand on my arm as I run past him.
Pilot: “Are you the family of six headed to Orlando?”
Me: Not slowing down, “Yes!”
Pilot: Shaking his head, “They’re getting ready to close the doors. I’ll call ahead and tell them you’re coming.”
Me: Yelling,“Thank you!”
We reach our gate, run down the ramp, collapse the strollers and step onto the plane. Every eyeball on the plane watches while we struggle with our luggage and our children and head toward our seats. B&B shoves our bags into random overhead compartments throughout the back of the aircraft. Miraculously, they all fit.
We collapse into our seats.
B&B lives to see another day. Just barely.
Two hours later, I’m over it. I’m deliriously tired and excited. We are flying to Florida to meet my parents, whom we haven’t seen in two months. And we’re going to Disneyworld with the kids for the first time.
B&B: Looking at me from across the aisle, “Still mad?”
Me: “That depends.”
B&B: “On what?”
Me: “On how you answer my question.”
B&B: “By all means, please ask it.”
Me: “Our return flight leaves at 7:35PM. What time shall we be at the airport?”
B&B: He hums a few notes of the Jeopardy theme, butchering it, “What is 5:35PM, Mr.Trebek?”
Me: Grinning, “Congratulations. You’ve answered correctly.”
He reaches across the aisle and caresses my ankle. I reach across the aisle and scratch his back.
The flight attendant catches my eye and smiles.
I hear the muffled voices of the couple who sit behind me.
Lady behind me: “Oh, she’s forgiven him! And much more quickly than I’d have forgiven you.”
Husband of the lady behind me: “Well, she should forgive him. They were late because of the suntan lotion, weren’t you listening? It’s her fault!”
B&B must hear them. Because he leans back, adorns his handsome face with his most innocent look, and points at me.
B&B: “It was definitely her fault, but she has a hard time admitting she’s wrong,” channeling Buffalo Bill for a third and final time, “It places the lotion in the basket!”
I take a deep, cleansing breath. The first of what promises to be many with eight consecutive days accompanied by B&B and our four clueless sons.
And so begins our vacation…