Life by Design: You Can’t Get Home Again

My travel fun is now inversely proportional to the number of terrorist threats in the past week and the quality of the airline service, divided by the number of children I have.



Having decided to fly my family to Chicago, I at least had the foresight to book La Guardia to Milwaukee instead of O’Hare (Westchester would have been ideal, cutting out the big guys).  Tickets were booked for the day after X-mas so Santa knew which house to find us in. 


As luck would have it, the latest ‘desperate man looking for identity,’ had just  boarded a flight with exploding underwear.  Since we were traveling with 19-month-old twins, I was more than familiar with exploding underwear but was now also subjecting these innocents to boot removal and wand searches through Code Orange security.


It’s no secret that bringing the kids home to your family is an act of faith, mostly in believing that all the people there want to see you all of you.  When I moved away 14 years ago, I would fly freely back and forth, thinking nothing of showing up as the surprise at a birthday.  With my first child came 9/11 and a reality check on spontaneity.  The kids and the skies have been a remarkable damper on both. 


In my early days of ‘adult travel’ I was flying back and forth to college in Austin, Texas. You had a meal choice, and could sit in smoking, drinking Scotch for $2.50 a pop.  I always managed to saunter off of those flights with a stash of mini booze bottles, compliments of my fellow male passengers.  Mile High Clubs were popular.  Not that I ever officially joined, but the point is I could have.  Now you’d be arrested, but only for suspicion of spending too much time hanging out in the john.


I still feel the pull to be with my family, particularly during the holidays.  Last year we didn’t go.  But you don’t celebrate not being in a two-hour security line at the airport.  You lament the plight of having to go anywhere to be with people you love.     


So refusing to be cowed by the cowards, we spent four days shuttling the kids from house to house, proving to ourselves my relatives are worth all the efforts.  In my haste to pack everyone up, I had left my clothes behind.  Hearing the news about the fool terrorist on Christmas Day not having any luggage I thought maybe he too had been preoccupied.  How was it that he could have passed through, unnoticed when the airlines are so diligent about collecting their baggage fee?


My fuzzy old friends and warm yummy family saluted our bravery traveling with the three boys.  This doesn’t mean they were sad to see us go, particularly since one of the babies had been sick and had nastily handed the bug to my hands-on mother.


And indeed Milwaukee Airport proved to be a slice of the past.  Friendly personnel, along with clean shops to buy Harley Davidson model motorcycles, or t-shirts with ‘Future Cow Tipper” in John Deere colors. 


By the time I let the shoeshine man do a number on my snow-beat riding boots, I had started to feel light headed.  Entering the plane and heading toward the back, I would have normally been ashamed to be carrying potentially crying seatmates, but felt too sick to care. I knew I was in trouble.


My husband and I each had a kid on our lap for their first and last free flight (you almost feel like you have to take them somewhere before you pay.) Without the plane leaving the runway, I had gone through all of the sick bags in our vicinity, my big kid collecting them like they were dollar bills.  Surely my fellow passengers had forgotten about the Shoe-Bomber with the likes of me.


Mid-flight things had only gotten worse.  The honey voiced southern stew was overly attentive, bringing me ginger ale to sip through little tiny straws and laying cold compresses on my head.  I was praying for a quick recovery, flashing back to the prize we had contributed to the family’s annual grab-bag game, the Virgin Mary Toast Press. 


I felt so lousy by the end of a flight they called for a wheel chair.  Not a wheel chair type, I was thrilled.  Service, this was service.

The New York City police, the paramedics and airport personnel met us.

Although my husband harshly insisted I be pushed to the waiting car instead of being taken by stretcher for medical observation, I still enjoyed swooshing past horrified travelers, rolling into waiting elevators and zipping around baggage claim.       


 My oldest kid got the name of the stew so we could write her a thank you note.  This alone was a miraculous change of events for our litigious family (Google: “Mitchell Berns Delta, Fortune”).



Consider this an update on Thomas Wolfe’s  “You Can’t Go Home Again”.  How about, “You Can’t Get Home Again,” without a bit of serious drama.




  2. i loved this article. it makes me remember why i don’t take the kids with me. sometimes driving is better.

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