“What’s with the rocks?”
“Do you have a few minutes? Pick a rock and I’ll tell you a story.”
Rock #3 red: humor
My husband traveled over Thanksgiving, so I decided the kids and I would go somewhere too. We were penny-pinchers, so I bought tickets on the cheapest airline available to visit relatives in Kansas City.
Our friend Steve offered to drive us to the airport, over an hour away. As a treat, we would stop en route for Happy Meals, since we wouldn’t be fed on the plane.
At pick-up time, Steve was nowhere in sight. Tension mounted while I tried to locate him. Finally he screeched into our driveway and I threw kids, suitcases, and little backpacks into the car. As we peeled out, the kids wailed that I had PROMISED them a Happy Meal. At two, four and six, losing our flight didn’t matter, but that Happy Meal did. Steve swung into McDonald’s, grabbed three identical Happy Meals, and took off again for the airport.
We leaped from the car and raced to the check-in counter. Too late to check our suitcases. Almost too late to board the plane. The lady said she would phone them not to close the doors for five more minutes.
Of course, being the cheapy airline, our gate was the farthest one on the concourse farthest away from the check-in desk. My 7-month-pregnant tummy bumped against Rachel in the stroller holding her Happy Meal, with suitcases hung from each handle, a bag and Rachel’s little backpack over my shoulder. Danny and Karis clung to my coat one on each side, clutching their Happy Meals in their free hands, small backpacks on their backs. “Kids, we have to RUN!”
Our limiting factor was Karis’ four-year-old running speed. Soon we had another limiting factor: the Happy Meal Cokes were sloshing inside the quickly disintegrating cardboard containers. We stopped long enough to pile Danny’s and Karis’ Soggy Meals on top of Rachel’s in her lap. She clutched all three with the gleam in her eye of a girl with a mission.
Because it was a cheapy airline, when we got to the very last gate on the concourse, we had to go down two flights of stairs, out a door and across the tarmac–and then up a long flight of narrow stairs into the plane. Yeah. Two year old, four year old, six year old, stroller, suitcases, bag, backpacks, and the precious Sloshy Meals, with the flight attendant glaring at us from the top of the stairway.
Inside we faced a plane full of hostile faces, people disgusted with the delay of their flight. This cheapy airline had no assigned seats. The flight attendant pointed out the only seats left, scattered through the plane, but made no effort to move anyone so that we could sit together. I buckled Danny with his Squishy Meal into the first free one and Karis into the second, half way back. The seat left for Rachel and me was in the very back of the plane.
As I extended my seat belt to its maximum length to accommodate myself, my unborn child, and Rachel, the flight attendant began her routine. “Welcome to Flight so-and-so nonstop to Des Moines . . .”
–a collective panicked intake of breath!–
“JUST kiiiddding; we’re going to Kansas City . . .”
After take-off, I settled Rachel in my seat with her limp French fries and ketchup, then lumbered up the aisle to help Karis rescue her Coke-drowned hamburger and on to the front to help Danny wipe off his little prize. Meanwhile Rachel spread ketchup as far as she could reach. I cleaned up as far as I could reach and settled her with crayons and a coloring book. Back up the aisle to collect the detritus of Karis’ Sloppy Meal, then Danny’s, then back to check on Rachel, just in time for seatbacks-and-tray tables-in-upright-position. Waddle back to Karis, then Danny: check seatbelts, put away crayons and coloring books, then stumble all the way back to once again get that seatbelt around my “lap” and my daughter.
“Stay where you are and wait for me,” I had firmly instructed Danny and Karis, and “SIT STILL, Rachel!” While the flight attendant at the exit door tapped her foot impatiently, I reconstructed the stroller/Rachel/suitcases/bag/backpack arrangement, now mercifully minus three Squashy Meals.
I had just managed to pull the last item out of the overhead compartment of the now-empty plane when a voice came over the loudspeaker:
“Isn’t anyone going to help that pregnant lady with her nursery school?”
And that’s why I call this story, “Too Little, Too Late.”