On the map it didn’t look so far, maybe 3, 4 hours tops. The girls and I could handle that easily. And so I bought the tickets.
Instead of flying to North Carolina we’d fly to Washington D.C., rent a car, and, after a night spent with a friend, we’d drive down to the Outer Banks.
I can hear you laughing from over here.
It took us two hours just to get out of D.C. and another 4 to get through Virginia and most of North Carolina.
See, that’s where I made a slight map reading mistake. Instead of being able to hop over to the Outer Banks from the top tip of North Carolina, you have to drive to the very bottom of the state and all the way up the outside of the state. All this with a 2 and 4-year-old in the car.
They were troopers. Amazing passengers. They napped part of the way and sat patiently in their car seats for the rest. I was closer to crying than they ever got.
After an all too brief vacation we had to make the trip back. This time instead of the clock, we raced a hurricane up the coast.
I have no recollection of the trip back down and up through North Carolina and Virginia and just a hazy recollection of the night we spent with a different set of friends.
And then my memory comes into sharp focus.
First there was the flight that was incredibly delayed. Then there was the announcement that no, the flight wasn’t delayed, but instead was leaving from the other end of the airport. Then there was me, toddler under one arm, stroller in front, carry-on precariously balanced on the stroller, and preschooler running beside me. Then there was the three of us arriving, entirely out of breath preschooler in the stroller, bag strapped to my back and toddler on my hip only to learn that, after all, the flight was still delayed, for two hours now.
The new flight was scheduled to arrive in Arizona exactly five minutes after our flight to California was scheduled to leave. And no, because the delay was being caused by a natural occurrence (damn hurricane finally catching up with me) the airline wouldn’t pay for our hotel room.
That’s when I hit my limit. I was tired. I had been responsible for my two kids for a week. I’d been traveling for days and sharing my bed with a squirmy kid – sometimes two – for the entire duration of our trip. I sat on the floor, called my husband, and almost wept.
We watched the sun set over the airport and I did my best to keep the kids from falling asleep on me and when the lovely air steward tried to tell me that families could no longer board early I only growled at him a little. And when the way nicer air hostess told me that she’d make the whole flight stay seated so we could make a mad dash for our next flight I didn’t jump out of my chair to hug her. And I swear that I only shed a tiny tear after we made it to our seats and they slammed the plane door shut behind us.
I haven’t traveled alone with the girls since that day. This summer I’m contemplating it again, but this time I think I’ll plan a little more carefully or at least get a little help.
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