Oh, God, please be with us. Just, oh, if I can ask it, let Mary sleep peacefully and if I need help, let there be some sweet grandmotherly sort that doesn’t mind. Please, please. The sixteen hour flight stretched before me like a mad nightmare. I knew it would be bad. Mary didn’t sleep well unless she was in her cradle and made her dislikes known with loud screaming cries. There was no way this was going to be easy. Perhaps God would just blot it all from my memory afterwards and I would never, ever, lay eyes on a single one of my fellow passengers ever again. Ha! Fat chance!
I stopped at a Fudruckers before going to my gate. I had hours to kill since the International flights left late in the evening. Besides, it would be easier to feed Mary now in a high chair than later in a tiny seat on a bumpy flight. Perhaps if I timed everything just right she would magically fall asleep the whole sixteen hours while I enjoyed snacks and watched movies.
Great, I am now panicked into ridiculous optimism of which I will soon have crushed into smithereens. Remember, Lora, SIXTEEN HOURS. I gave Mary a look and settled her into a high chair as I opened up her yogurt.
The yogurt was devoured and my onion rings nibbled at, my stomach too nervous to comply with eating, and we headed to the gate. My shoulders were already aching from the massive back pack, the diaper bag, and the baby carrier that had Mary strapped over my chest and belly. It was nice to be shuffled on the plane first, apparently the only crazy woman traveling with a baby for this flight.
I got on my battle-face as I took my seat. It was time to execute the first part of my plan—organize baby stuff for flight, store excess baggage, arrange baby in carrier for take-off. I got it all done and then a flight attendant comes by with a helpful-sweet smile and starts in on me, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but the baby needs to be out of the carrier for take-off. OH, and are those your bags? Everything must be stowed in the overhead compartments, including the carrier. And, when you are ready I will give you proper instructions on how to use a baby seat-belt for this flight.” She turned and left and I tried not to call her names in my head. After all, she was just doing her job and she hadn’t been rude. I would have just preferred, obviously, to have been left alone to do it all my way.
And then I heard her, a fellow passenger. “Sweetheart, let me help you.” She must have been about my mom’s age with sassy pepper-gray hair cut short around her face, bright green eyes, and a soft smile. Before I could say, “Bob’s your uncle.” She had all my bags and the darn carrier stowed away. I didn’t get to talk to her more though because the flight attendant was back and giving me a thorough lecture regarding the baby seat belt, the changing tables in the bathrooms, and the other various baby rules. By the time she was done Mary had worked herself into a storm. It was time for her nightly nursing, she knew it and she wanted it NOW.
The plane was in flight just about the time that Mary finished her feeding and to my greatest disbelief, fell asleep like a rock. I was able to slide her into her bassinet, strap the safety net in place, and sit back in my seat as a liberated woman.
I reveled in the freedom and the quiet. I marveled at my good fortune as me and everyone around me took in their in-flight movie and meal in peace and I thanked God.
That’s when I remembered her. She was sitting across the aisle and her eyes were still on my sleeping angel. She wasn’t watching a movie like everyone else. When she caught me staring she extended a hand and said, “Hi, I’m Sandy. You have a beautiful baby.”
“Thank you,” I replied with a laugh. “I agree with you.”
“Well, if you need any help, you just let me know.”
I nodded and she turned back to her meal. Five minutes later I saw another woman with white curls close to her head and two sapphire earrings bobbing around her neck. She wasn’t headed back to her seat. She was headed straight for me. When she reached me she said, “Now if you have any trouble, I’m a pro at putting babies to sleep. I’ve got 10 grandkids.”
And another woman came while I was putting away my meal. “You can call me Sally. I’m right down in row 62 and you come get me if you need anything.”
Another woman smiled and offered to help when I got up to use the bathroom and yet another when I was returning to my seat. God, do I look that worn out and pathetic? It was only then that I stopped and really looked at my fellow passengers. Except for a teenage boy and a young couple near the front, they all appeared to be in their fifties and sixties. I turned to Sandy, my neighbor, and asked her quietly, “Where are you headed?”
Sandy replied, “Well, I heard that most of our group is headed to meet up with a cruise in Sydney.”
“I’m going to meet my new granddaughter.”
I wanted to cry. God hadn’t just heard my frantic prayers; he had answered them in abundance. I was literally surrounded by sweet grandmotherly and grandfatherly sorts. Mary slept like an angel and then when morning came she laughed and entertained us all until we landed. When my husband found me in the crowd and took his little family in his arms he asked, “How was your flight?”
I could only reply with teary eyes as I waved goodbye to Sandy, “It was a miracle.”