Spring Breaking Point

The night before Axel, Little L and I were to leave for California, Axel and I talked through how the grand voyage would go. This would be our third plane trip with Little L, but it had been about nine months since the last time we flew. 

My first point of business: coffee. 

“No. Definitely not,” Axel replied before I even started to plead my case. On the last trip I asked for a cup of coffee which Axel then had to practically hold over the person to his left since Little L was sitting on my lap and grabbing at everything in sight.

“It’s not safe,” he said. “She wiggles too much.” 

I already knew it wouldn’t work, but I wanted him to understand my suffering. “It’s just, imagine this. You’re in a situation that is super stressful. And then, all of the sudden, someone walks by you, offering, for free, the thing that is your favorite in the world! And you’re supposed to say no!”

We settled on that I would buy a glass of wine instead. But it wouldn’t be free. 

When they came through the aisle with the coffee I followed the plan and ordered my glass of wine, which turned out to be a small bottle of wine. But I didn’t drink it. Axel stored the unopened bottle in the diaper bag because Little L had begun her Hour of Despair. When walking up and down the aisles was a grand failure, nearby passengers – a family traveling with three kids; they were clearly experts – offered us M&M’s and music on their phone. 

Little L’s bedtime came and went, and although she was sucking her fingers and we pulled out her sleep sack and her worn bear, there was no sleep.

By the time we were to Carrie and Max’s house, Little L passed out in her Pack N Play exactly two minutes after we left her, clutching Oso the Bear, even though it had been thrown on the airplane bathroom floor in a fit of rage. 

Thirteen hours later, Little L woke up in better spirits. 

What she didn’t know was that outside her window in California, a park awaited her. 

But not just any park. 

A closed park. 

This would be Little L’s own tempting coffee cart situation.

We went out looking for parks. “This one is closed,” I said, “but I think there’s an open one on the next block. We’ll have an adventure!”

“Ven-chew!” Little L chimed in, clearly now knowing what she was – or wasn’t – in for.

I jogged, using the umbrella stroller that was about a foot too low, and we approached another park!

Closed.

Little L took it in stride, but I knew I’d better think quick.

“Okay, okay,” I said. “Let’s just go to the school. I know they have a playground!” 

So I shuffled over there, starting to break a bit of a sweat, only to turn the corner and see the the big black fence of the school locked, perhaps because it was Sunday.

There’s a park behind that fence.

“Ok how about you just explore here?” I asked Little L. There was a ramp that Little L walked up and down and some plants for her to look at and try to sit on.

The next day Axel and I walked about half an hour to a park where Little L could play on the slides.

Only 23 minutes to go!

She had finally gotten her long-awaited metaphorical cup of airplane coffee.

A good April Fool’s joke would have been if this park was closed too!

A few days later, we boarded an early morning flight home to Minneapolis. I was seated with a perky Little L on my lap – she seems to take after me in that she seems not to mind early rising as much as staying up late – when a woman walking down the aisle said, “I know that baby.” 

This woman, possibly a grandma now, has been here, been me, with a baby on her lap. She wants me to know that she knows my plight. Parenthood really is something we never forget, I thought to myself. 

“I hope she’s happier this time.” 

Ooooooooooh. It dawned on me.

“Wait, you were on the Friday flight?” I asked in horror.

“I just felt so bad for her,” she said generously before continuing down the aisle where I’m pretty sure she asked the flight attend to sell her and her seat mates noise-cancelling headphones.

This flight went much better. I drank just a cup of water and forced myself to politely decline the tempting coffee cart that came down the aisle. 

Little L was in good spirits most of the flight, eating cereal and bananas, coloring and playing with her new dinosaur. 

Until about an hour from home, she announced, “All done!”

“All done, all done, all done!” 

She scrambled to get off my lap. 

“We’re not home yet. Here, do you want to see a book?” 

But before I knew what hit me, Axel knew what hit the guy in front of us.

“She threw her cup!” Axel whispered to me.

“What?” I looked under the seat and noticed the cup by the feet of the man seated directly in front of us. 

He turned and passed it to me. “I’m so sorry,” I said, mortified. I didn’t ask if the cup had hit him, but from his tight-lipped smile, I think it probably did. 

Axel wrangled Little L and I brought out the last item in the diaper bag of tricks – a Highlights magazine for babies. “Fly, fly, fly!” I sang the poem written in a quietish voice to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell.” I desperately checked the “time until arrival” every minute or so. Little L was all done with this plane ride, and so were we.

A week later, we had made many trips to the local open park, consumed plenty of coffee, and traveled on zero more airplanes.

Then we found out an April snow storm was coming. I cancelled my Thursday acupuncture appointment; it would be hard to get there. Axel would still be attending his Wednesday appointment, though, which was just around the time when the snow would begin. 

“Hey,” I texted him. “Since I can’t go to acupuncture tomorrow, could you bring me a free coffee from the lobby? Decaf espresso. Hit the button two times. Thank you!” The free coffee machine is a key part of the healing experience.

Axel arrived home an hour and a half after his appointment had ended, carrying a cup of lukewarm espresso. “I gave you three shots,” he told me. 

“Thank you so much for carrying it all the way home!”

He wiped melted snow off his face. “I had to wait for the bus for an hour,” he said. I imagined him in the blizzard carefully balancing the cup of coffee in his hand.

I smiled as I took a sip. “Hey,” I said. “I think this makes up for the lack of coffee on the plane.”

Sure, drinking coffee that is coming down the aisle on a cart in front of you is convenient. But having your partner carry your cup of doctor’s office espresso home for an hour in the snow, uphill both ways, in sopping wet tennis shoes makes it all the more delicious.

I didn’t even throw the cup at his head.

This episode of Good Work Great Life is brought to you by Minnesota and its April thunder snow – happy Snow Day, yet again!