“There are times when I think it’s absolutely appropriate to sob, cry, throw yourself on the floor and writhe in uncontrollable pain while in public. When you stub your toe, break your leg, poke your eye out, miss the sale at Macy’s, and apparently, when you’re 16 and have to leave your boyfriend behind while you go on vacation.
A few weeks ago, my teenage daughter and I traveled to California to watch my older daughter graduate college. Fun right? We had a list of things we were going to do; hang out with family, eat at our favorite restaurants, go to the beach, get her favorite ice cream, go shopping, get manis/pedis – you know, everything a teenager could ever want while getting a tan and sun-kissed hair. I thought she would ballet leap onto the plane, waving and blowing kisses to the mundane life she was leaving behind and spend the next week tossing back her long, beautiful, blonde, sleek hair over her shoulder as she threw her head back and laughed while sharing childhood memories and lunch with her sister at the outdoor cafe.
I was wrong, friends. I was so wrong. Five minutes after she woke up to go to the airport, she was in tears, and I can’t count how many times she said she wasn’t going, to which I replied, ‘Yes, you are,’ before I finally had to tell her to ‘get in the car,’ and I ‘didn’t care’ if she refused to pack a suitcase or not – she could go naked at that point for all I cared. She stood by the door frowning and I watched while her tears got bigger and her arms stayed permanently crossed. I wanted to say something really good, really supportive, really motherly, but it was 5 in the morning and I just wanted her boyfriend to finish loading the car so he could drop us off at the airport. I tried to order an Uber, but there was no way she was going to give up those last precious 20 minutes she could have with him while we made our way through the morning traffic. I’ll admit, it was kinda cute how he kissed her hand at every red light, but I really could have done without the non-stop sniffling, labored breathing and the whining about how horrible this idea was.
What? Going to see her sister graduate from COLLEGE, without her boyfriend? Right, what a horrible idea.
I thought we were in the clear as we pulled up to the drop off zone. I was ready to jump out, pat the kid on the back, thank him for the ride, and run to the ticket gate. But before I could wrestle my 48.6-pound suitcase out of the trunk of his little sports car, she looked up at her tall, blonde prince and begged, ‘Can you come in with me?,’ to which he blissfully obliged. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ I thought as I dragged her to the check-in line. Of course, he had to park the car and she anxiously stammered in the airport like a love-sick teenager waiting for her one, true love to return from war. Upon his return, I gave them a few minutes to say their goodbyes, irritated yet impressed with how he calmed her until it was time to go and the crying began. Again.
I wanted to grab her hand and skip through the terminal yelling, ‘It’s only a week! It’s only a week!,’ while belting out the words to ‘I Will Survive,’ but I thought the constant bawling was attention enough. And to be honest, I get it. I understand how she feels. After all, I was a teenager in love once – with her dad. I probably would have chained myself to the tree outside of his house if we were threatened with separation back then. And, I certainly hope he would have channeled his inner Lloyd Dobler and shown up wherever I was, boombox and all, to rescue me from the horrors of a family reunion.
We made it through security without a complete meltdown, but even bribes of Starbucks or Smashburger couldn’t control the hysterics, sniffling or deep sighs for very long. As much as I hate to fly, and as much as it scares me, I could not wait to board our tin cylinder tube because somehow, I convinced myself it would be so much better once we were buckled and ready to go. Wrong again. As we took our seats and her swollen eyes continued to produce a river of tears, and a few wails, I searched my soul for the nicest thing I could say at the time, which was basically, ‘Will you shut up?’ I’m pretty sure my mom card burned up in my wallet. But, at the time, I did not care, I just wanted to go and have fun and by God, we were going to have a good time, whether she liked it or not. It seems somebody did care, though. Meet Janet, a flight attendant in the not-so-friendly skies of an airline I will not specifically mention by name, but I will tell you it’s named after a state and it’s not Hawaiian Air.
Upon hearing me, Janet sauntered over, clasped her hands, pursed her lips and in her best Ms. Hannigan voice belted out, ‘Do I need to separate you two?’ Wait. What? I looked up from my now open magazine and the look of confusion on my face must have tipped her off that I had no idea what she was talking about. My kid sniffled. ‘Nothing gets better at 30,000 feet,’ she continued. My first thought was, ‘Does your ATTITUDE, Janet?’ but I refrained, nodded and told her everything was fine. The kid sniffled again.
Janet plodded away and I went back to reading my magazine. A few minutes later, Janet returned with Joe (another flight attendant) who strode up to us, also clasped his hands (this must be a training thing) and promptly informed us that he ‘would not close the doors until everything was okay.’ He was actually quite entertaining as he tried to throw around his figurative muscle which actually made both me and my daughter giggle as there was no problem, other than the one they were creating. Giggles turned into small laughs, and small laughs turned into full blown laughter, as Joe mentioned something about his ‘air authority.’ I don’t think either Joe or Janet were overly impressed that we would not feed into their drama, but the fact my kid was laughing and not crying, was all that mattered to me in that brief period of time. Looking back, the best thing either one of them could have done was offer me a drink, but sadly, we didn’t even get water on that flight. We were officially in time-out.
I’ll also have you know the crying stopped about two days later, just in time for her to watch her sister walk across the stage to receive the college diploma she worked so hard for. Food was eaten, beaches were frolicked, leaps were leapt, grandmas were hugged, movies were watched and somehow the earth didn’t spin off its axle.
Our flight home wasn’t nearly as eventful and this time, we were not just offered a drink, but a snack too, if you can believe that. This time, there was no crying, no blubbering, and no heavy sighs. No, this time, there was just a girl happy to be heading home with a heart full of sunny memories ready to be greeted by the boy she loves. What a wonderful, wonderful world that must be.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “My Kid Is an Asshole, and So Is My Dog” are now available in print and kindle. You can pre-order her newest book here. You can follow her work on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.
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