Mommy Comes Home

For awhile before my husband got a C-PAP machine to wear while sleeping, I was in the habit of wearing earplugs to bed. I am a hopelessly light sleeper and he snores. The earplugs took some getting used to mostly because the silence was truly deafening. It was like total sensory deprivation. When I would remove them in the morning, the sound – even of a quiet house – seemed so… rich. Intense. Almost too much.

Returning to my boys in my house after spending a week in Washington, D.C. felt much the same. While the trip had its frustrations and its own sources of exhaustion, it was basically a get-away. Jane was a pleasure, my time was largely my own. No one was screaming or bouncing off the walls or acting out. It was a reasonably quiet, reserved vacation.

Within minutes of entering the house, I was on sensory overload. The boys were still hyped up from their own vacation and seeing Mommy again pushed them over the edge. The dog was also excited to have the clan reunited. She was running around, jumping and licking, and in general adding energy to the room. My husband was trying to show me the gifts he had purchased. I was handing out my gifts to the boys. Jane was making plans for the evening.

When my husband left to take Jane to meet her friend at the theater, I found myself alone with children I had grown unaccustomed to wrangling. I managed to sort the dirty laundry from the suitcase into piles on the floor before retreating to the bedroom and closing the door. I called my mom but she was at volleyball and unable to visit. The noise in the living room was ratcheting up louder and louder. It seemed wise to investigate.

The scene that greeted me literally made me dizzy. The boys were prancing around the room, laughing and giggling, waving their arms in the air. They almost looked like natives dancing around a fire. When they saw me, the hilarity redoubled. The real shocker wasn’t their activity though. No, it was their attire.

They were wearing our dirty laundry. Each was wearing either my shirt or Jane’s. Under the shirts, they had layered swimsuits and bras to give themselves the appearance of breasts. The strutting and dancing was performed with chests thrust forward and calls of “Look at me! Look at me!”

I wondered why I had thought my husband was being so generous to me when he said he’d run Jane into town. I was too tired and overwhelmed to yell or laugh, either one. I just pulled the undergarments off the hysterical boys and in a fit of desperation asked, “Who wants to watch Dr. Who?!”

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Waiting for the Elevator

Jane and I were headed to a metro station that we had not been to before. As we waited across the street, I studied the area. There did not appear to be the usual large multi-escalator entrance. Instead there was a small elevator door tucked away in a bit of an obscured corner. I watched as small crowds waited for the elevator. Around the corner of the elevator, facing the street, was a young heavily tattooed man sweating and lounging on the ground. He was not wearing a shirt and was stretched out on his side with his head propped up on his hand. Above him was a cardboard sign like street beggars might have. Hand lettered on the sign were these words: “A good lay for too little pay.”

Surely that doesn’t mean what it sounds to me like it means. I wondered about the man but he didn’t appear to be bothering the people waiting for the elevator. By the time we crossed the street, however, everyone else had made it down to the station. I pushed the button to request the elevator and waited. A few feet away, there was a painted panda statue. I told Jane to stay put and walked over to take its picture.

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As I walked back, the man looked up at me. “How many pictures of that did you take?” he asked.

“Three,” I replied. “It’s a big enough memory card that I’m not too worried about it.”

He looked at my camera bag and I began to get a bit nervous. I returned to Jane and pushed the button again. Surely there’s too many people about for him to try anything… then again, this corner is a little bit hidden. About then, I saw him stand up. I glanced at Jane and wondered what I should do. He leaned against the corner of the elevator and looked me over.

“Excuse me,” he said, “I find myself attracted to you. Are you attracted to me?”

My mind descended into a cold calm as I considered my options. Ignoring him did not seem like an option. A gentle demur did not seem likely to end the discussion. A polite affirmative would undoubtedly bring on further advances. I felt that a negative response, no matter how politely put, might anger him.

“I’m married,” I said in a firm voice, looking him in the eye, “I don’t make it a habit to discuss who I am or am not attracted to.”

Silence hung between us as he parsed what I said. He finally asked, “Did you just tell me to f**k off?”

The possibility of danger was still present in my mind but I did not feel particularly afraid. “I suppose so,” I answered, “but in a nicer way.”

With that, he returned to his lounging location. I pushed the elevator button a couple more times. Jane turned to me with her eyes as wide as saucers. I began to consider whether we should leave the area. But the nearest metro station was a mile away, uphill. Soon an older gentleman approached. Finally, we had company.

“Does this go to the museum?” he asked.

“This is an elevator to the metro station. Where are you trying to go?”

“Oh. I was told the zoo was this way.”

“Ahh,” I said, “You want to go on up the road. It’s that way.” And with that, our sane, likely safe companion thanked me and headed in the direction I pointed, leaving me alone with my twelve-year-old daughter and a mildly threatening man.

Before I could decide how much attention to pay to my concerns, a large, strong-looking man arrived. What I wanted to say was, “Hello! You look big and strong. Will you be my protector? That guy over there is making me nervous.” Instead, I struck up the conversation with, “I’m starting to doubt the elevator is ever going to come.”

With that, we began to discuss the elevator and the weather and we enjoyed each other’s company until the elevator took us down to the metro and we parted ways. Jane and I sat down on a bench, looked at each other, and laughed.

Bubba Bob

We are nearing the end of our gender-separated vacation. Jane and I have one more full day in Washington, D.C. with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. My husband and the boys are heading home tomorrow with Grace’s boyfriend, Bob. While we took in the city-dwelling sights, the boys were looking at the splendors of nature: visiting Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and other great camping destinations.

With a two hour time difference and spotty cell phone reception on their end, we haven’t spent a tremendous amount of time in contact with each other. Tonight, I was stretched out on the bed in our hotel, trying to recover from over-indulging at the Ethiopian restaurant we visited tonight. I was bored and had tried, unsuccessfully, to contact my husband.

As I cruised YouTube on my phone, it suddenly rang. My husband! Yay! Grace looked up. “Where are they? Are they still on the road?”

“No,” I replied. “They are in for the night.” She scrambled to grab her phone and then sprawled across the other bed. Within minutes, I could hear Bob’s voice through her phone. We each greedily began exchanging information with our significant others.

After awhile, my husband said that Hal wanted to talk to me. I talked to my four year old for a few brief minutes and then he asked if I wanted to speak to… Bobba? I wasn’t sure what he said but figured he meant “Bubba” since that’s who I always talk to next.

“Sure! I definitely want to talk to him,” I said.

I then listened to him call out to people, asking where Bob is. Bob? No, wait! I want to talk to Daryl! I sighed as I waited for it to get straightened out on the other end. I could clearly hear Bob’s voice through Grace’s phone. I then heard Hal ask his Daddy for Bob.

“Why do you want Bob? Are you done talking to Mommy? Let’s let Daryl talk to her now.”

“But she wants to talk to Bob!”

I was laughing by the time my husband got on the phone. “No, I don’t want to talk to Bob. I thought he said ‘Bubba’. Can I talk to Daryl now?”

I’m not used to Daryl sounding so excited on the phone. He had obviously had a great time on the trip. After we talked for a few minutes, he asked, “Do you want to talk back to Daddy now?”

Before I could answer, I heard a panicked and indignant Hal call out, “NOOO!!!! She wants to talk to BOB!!”

Daddy explained the confusion to him and we all had a good laugh over it on our end. He was so cute trying to fulfill his understanding of my wishes. But, really… Bob’s a nice guy and all but why would I want to talk to him before I talk to my own son?

Stand By

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. There was a short line at baggage check-in and an equally short line through security. We arrived at our gate in plenty of time as well and bought breakfast at the nearby Whataburger. We had been a little tense on our way there. I had not gotten much sleep. Grace, my sister-in-law had gotten considerably less. I had added to the frustration by forgetting to confirm my reservation Monday morning, forgetting indeed until late, late that night. Since we were flying Southwest, that meant Jane and I were late in the boarding order. We were unlikely to get to sit together and might even have trouble catching our connecting flight in St. Louis.

So, at Whataburger, we sat back and relaxed. We joked about ways that Grace could try to keep the seats next to her open for us. We knew we had plenty of time. But we had a problem. Neither adult was actually awake. Grace was fully aware of what time it was but mistakenly thought our departure time was 20 minutes later than it was. I knew exactly when our departure was but was paying no attention to the current time. As we ate our breakfast, our fellow passengers boarded the plane not 30 yards from us. And flew away.

Eventually, we decided it was time to go sit by the gate so we could hear better. Grace confirmed that the screen showed our flight. We sat and waited. Some distant part of my brain noted that all the people were gone. That was for an earlier flight, some equally distant part answered. Eventually Grace commented that it seemed like they should be calling us to board now. I looked at my watch to see that it was 6:50 about the same time she remarked at the paucity of passengers waiting at the gate. When I took a closer look at the screen, I saw that the flight had departed. I’d like to say that woke us up, but really, it didn’t.

Southwest took care of us and directed us to another gate to board a flight to St. Louis, warning that our prospects from there were bleak and would likely involve us arriving in Washington, DC late in the evening. It would be much later before I would think to wonder about our luggage.

In St. Louis, the helpful man tried to find a way to get us to Reagan National earlier. But the cold hard fact was that the next flight did not leave for nearly six hours and was full. We’d be on stand-by with very little hope of getting on board. I had taken a nap between Dallas and St. Louis so was feeling a bit more like myself. “What about Dulles?” I asked. Surely getting to some part of DC was better than sitting in Missouri.

That query got us back on the same plane from which we had just disembarked, now on its way to Chicago, where we were assured we would easily get to board a plane leaving for Dulles just before noon. We then learned that the folks in Chicago were not quite as helpful. They didn’t seem as confident that we would get that flight as the nice guy in St. Louis. The best I could get was a “probably”. But then they received word that the plane had a weight issue. They might not let us on. We also learned that we couldn’t find out anything about our luggage without going to a baggage claim office, which we couldn’t do there without risking missing the flight.

I had met a woman in the bathroom who had been placed on stand-by for the same flight. I saw her later with a boarding pass and she encouraged me to talk to the ladies at the desk again. They said they were not approving stand-bys and didn’t seem to hear me when I said that they had for “those two ladies over there”. Then we started getting anxious. We moved to seats right next to the desk, where I suspect we sat staring at them like hungry wolves.

A lady with a stroller approached and asked about the flight too. She was given the same answer as us. At this point, a war started up in my head. There was a woman with a two year old trying to board a plane. Compassion told me that she needed the flight more than we did, that we could better handle sitting at the airport for a long time than she could. Survival instincts growled we were here first.

The lady at the desk started a conversation with the lady at the gate that was broadcast over the speakers. We looked back and forth at them as they discussed our fate. We must have looked like we were watching a tennis match. Back and forth, back and forth. Eventually, the gate lady held up 5 fingers. Room for five people. We jumped up and gathered our stuff. The desk lady sounded like she said a name – Barbara? Oh, no! What if other people are waiting ahead of us? She was printing stuff out. And pointedly not looking at us. My heart began to sink. And then she turned to us and said, “You are in luck, ladies.”

With that, we boarded the plane. The last leg of our flights was relatively uneventful. I was sitting next to someone who did not smell nice and we hit some turbulence, but I was just happy to be getting to DC without too much delay.

When we left the plane at Dulles, I realized that our adventure was really just beginning. Up until then, our fate had been in the hands of others. Other than deciding to try for Dulles instead of Reagan, we had simply asked for help and done what we were told and waited. Now we were at an airport unsure of where our luggage was or how to get to it.

“Ok, Grace,” I said, “we are going to go down to baggage claim. I’m going to ask if they can help determine where our luggage is. You call the hotel and find out if they have a shuttle from here.” Only, there was no one at baggage claim. The sign said to go to the ticket counter. While Grace and Jane watched the luggage return from our flight on the (very) remote chance that our luggage had somehow followed us, I went searching for the ticket counter.

There, I was assured that our luggage had made the journey to Reagan and was told there were shuttles available. At first, I didn’t understand that they essentially meant taxis that hold lots of people and go wherever you pay them to take you. But for $49, we were on our way to our original destination airport. Luck made us the second drop-off from the shuttle.

We walked into the baggage claim office and I said, “We sincerely hope that our luggage arrived about 11:30 this morning. We missed our flight but are here now.”

“From Dallas?” he asked. Our hearts lightened. Next thing we knew, we had our luggage. Our luck held out in that the hotel shuttle arrived within moments of us reaching the waiting point. And then ours was the first hotel stop. And then the hotel lady informed us there was a complimentary dinner in less than an hour, complete with a free glass of wine. Then she gave us too many dinner passes so that complimentary glass of wine became two glasses of wine.

It was if the cosmos was compensating for the rough and stressful day with a nice, relaxing evening. Bedtime was another story all together, but the evening… the evening was nice.