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I thought it would be glamorous, this traveling from the U.S. to Europe, and back, and forth, and back, etc. My dear husband has been flying all over the United States and Europe for 30 years or more–when our four kids were young, I envied the time he got to spend in airports and on airplanes–no grubby little fingers slipping under the bathroom door, no bedtime baths and stories, no tantrums and time-outs. I would grumble to myself (or out loud) about his freedom to sit and read without interruption, or watch a movie that didn’t involve a purple dinosaur or blue dog or screeching monster. Mr. Wonderful had delicious dinners and conversations with colleagues while I ate discarded grilled cheese crusts or chicken nuggets and scolded my kiddos for laughing at each others’ bodily emissions. Little did I know…
Here’s what this frequent flyer has learned in the last few years:
1. Flights to Newark, NJ are NEVER on time and can, in fact, result in a winter break vacay at the terminal rather than Ireland (right, Maggie??), or a 36 hour trip to to Brussels.
2. You may have studied the flight’s seating chart and chosen a row with an empty seat between you and the body sleeping against the window, but just when the doors are about to close, a giant will appear in the aisle, nod his head at you with a “that’s me” and a goofy grin. In an effort to protect personal space for both parties, you lean into the aisle, accepting the bruises from the food and beverage cart hitting your shoulder twice every hour as you reach for yet another plastic cup of white wine.
3. If you’ve been upgraded to first class on one segment of your journey, you’ll most likely be seated next to the toilet on another, with the expectation that you’re the crapper crackerjack, the water-closet warden, complete with a vacancy report and instructions for opening the door. On this segment, you’ve exchanged that coffee in a china cup for a white whine in a plastic cup (after you’ve handed over your plastic for payment).
4. Do not be fooled into thinking you’re almost home just because boarding has been announced for the last leg of your trip. You will inevitably be directed to a bus where you’ll wait 20 minutes or more for other passengers. When the latecomers arrive and the bus driver takes his seat and closes the doors to head to the small aircraft, the bus won’t start. You’ll wait 10 more minutes so you can disembark from this bus to climb into another for the jaunt to the plane, which actually might be halfway from Frankfurt to Luxembourg.
5. Living with one foot on each side of the ocean isn’t easy, but I’ll take the scrappy dinners and my bedtime routine, and I’ll appreciate those times for expeditions and adventure. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home(s).
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller