You can feel the beady stare of each angry passenger, jammed inside this frail aluminum can trapped in the sky.
My brother Eric’s wife’s aunt was having a destination wedding, so Eric’s entire family, who all live in the same town, flew together: his father-in-law, his mother-in-law who is the bride’s sister, Eric’s wife, and Eric, and their ten-month old baby. To Italy.
Have you ever been on a flight with a crying baby? If so, the baby is guaranteed to be in the middle of the row directly behind you, kicking the chair, screaming in your ear. But if you’re the parent—your addled, sleep-deprived brain tuned especially to the frequency of your own child’s wailing—the sound feels ten times louder, and makes the flight a hundred times as painful. Because you know—you can feel—the beady stare of each angry passenger, jammed inside this frail aluminum can trapped in the sky for the duration of the flight.
Their flight from JFK to Italy was overnight. A little Benadryl for the baby, a couple airplane bottles of vodka and tonic for Eric. The flight went okay!
They stayed in Italy for a week—to have a few days to get over the jet lag, to make use of vacation time, to visit the Italian countryside, and to attend what was, by all accounts, a very nice, very pretty wedding. The week was a success.
But after a week-long vacation in Italy, you have to fly back.
Flying with a ten-month old is not advised—have I said that? You have to plan for every contingency. There are bottles. And wipes. And pacifiers. And diapers. And books. Toys. More wipes. More diapers. A checklist like it’s a NASA spaceflight.
When you fly across an ocean east to west, that means you are flying with the sun. You gain all kinds of extra time—five hours from Rome to New York—which means that day is twenty-nine hours. It is literally the longest day of my brother’s life.
When you fly with kids, you get to board early! Which means you’re stuck in your ass-cramped seat for even longer. Eric schleps the diaper bag and baby, his wife’s duffel bag, his mother-in-law’s hat. They find their row. They settle in. The plane loads and taxis and takes off. And the baby…falls…asleep!…Perfect.
You have to plan for every contingency. There are bottles. And wipes. And pacifiers. And diapers. And books.
Non-stop, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars
crying crying crying crying crying.
Until—DING DONG! Uhhhhhhh….This is the captain speaking, just letting you know we’ve reached our cruising altitude of—
WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! WHAAAAAAAAAA! WHAAAAAAAAAAAA!
For the next eleven hours.
Nothing works. Baby won’t take the pacifier. Standing in the aisle cradling and rocking: no good. Bottle? Won’t touch it. WHAAAAAAAAAAA!
Eleven hours of crying.
Eleven hours of uninterrupted crying.
Eleven hours of uninterrupted, non-stop, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars
crying crying crying crying crying.
They serve pretzels—crying.
The drink cart comes around—crying.
Lunch at some random hour over the Atlantic—crying.
Three in-flight movies—crying.
American airspace, plane begins descent—crying.
Wheels touch down, plane skids along the runway, slows down, turns toward the gate…
The baby is asleep.
The plane is at the gate. The passengers all de-plane. Baggage claim. Customs. All quiet. The car service picks them up at the curb to drive them back to Connecticut. The air is cool. It’s dark now. Baby stays asleep. Everyone piles in the car. The car leaves the airport, gets on the highway.
Travel can take a lot out of you, and Eric’s mother-in-law, who ran around all week herding the family, trying local wines, helping with last minute wedding planning, dancing late into the night, is coming down with a cold. In the car Eric is between the sleeping baby, and his almost sick mother-in-law. AHH…AHH…AHH-CHOOH.
Two and a half hours, back to Connecticut.