Monday, September 1, 2014

Our trip to the states and the kindness of strangers

Well now! What a long time since I sat down to write. I wanted to, really, because I didn't want to leave out anything, but traveling without my husband overseas left very little time to myself.

On August 7, we began our attempt to get on a Space A flight from Germany to the states. I had heard horror stories of people camped out for days, waiting. We were still in the middle of the "busy" season, so I knew our chances were small to get a flight on the first day. I packed our bags, but I didn't really think it would matter if I missed anything. I fully expected to come home and try again the next day. On the last flight out that day, we made the list. Only, its destination was California. The wrong coast. I had only a minute to decide. Tony said go and so we did.

The plane was a cargo plane but it did have regular airline seating inside, but little else. Including insulation. It was so loud that you could barely hear someone talking to you. It also got very cold seeing as how we flew over the North Pole! Lastly, it was very long. 13 hours long. And this is where the kindness of those around us began.

The young soldier who chose to sit next to the kids gave them gummy bears, his jacket, and his attention. That jacket, though, is what made the trip bearable. I had a sweater for myself, but the rest of the kids jackets were in the suitcase. I would snuggle one up in the jacket until they were asleep and then passed it along to one who was awake and cold.

When we landed, of course my phone would not work. Tony had planned to try and book us a room at the hotel on the AFB, but I had no way of knowing if he was successful. Another family on the flight offered to call the hotel and then delayed their own car ride home to drop us off at the hotel.

I booked a commercial flight for the next day out of Sacramento, but I had no idea how to get us there. I went to the lobby for some refreshments and a lady struck up a conversation with me. After telling her I had a flight in the morning, she handed me a business card for a shuttle service. I called, and he not only could take us, but he gave a 50% discount for families.

Now comes the really good and bad part. On that flight, one of my older children had an accident while waiting in line for the restroom. And it was not pee. And it was not an easy cleanup. As in, I had to throw away the pants, underwear and socks. It took 20 minutes inside the plane lavatory to clean up said child. They aren't really meant for two people, I can assure you. I asked the stewardess if they had any blankets I could wrap around my poor, embarrassed kid. Nope. I was near tears at this point. So I zipped up my cardigan sweater, tied it around embarrassed kid's waist and waited to land. I can also assure you that almost every store in the airport sells shirts. But no one sells pants. After searching for 30 minutes, I found a pair of men's pajama pants. The cost? $32. For pajama pants! I resigned myself to the loss of $32 and went to pay. The lady looked our sad situation and without saying a word, scanned a pair of socks instead and said "That will be $10, ma'am." I will admit I did shed a tear then.

My sister was waiting for us at the end of the connecting flight and we traveled onto my parent's house after spending a day with my sister.

I was really looking forward to a relaxing week at the beach, with my oldest daughter joining us. We had rented a separate little cottage about a mile from the rest of my family. I had pictured us spending our days with all the family and the evenings with my little family. The first day, however, changed all that. Sophie was jumping waves, when she stepped into a hole. In extreme pain, she was helped out of the water by my sister and BIL, where she immediately passed out. A trip to the ER showed no broken bones, but most likely a torn ACL. So for the rest of the week, she camped out on the couch at my parent's beach house and I toted the kids back and forth each night and morning.

I ended up accompanying Sophie back to school to help her get unpacked, since she is on crutches. I also stopped in to see my grandmother in WV on my way to Baltimore to try and get a flight home. I also stopped in to see my MIL. Tony's sister followed me to Andrews AFB to help me get on a plane. It was obvious by the number of people there that I was not getting on this flight. We picked up chinese food and headed back to my MIL's house. I drove to North Carolina the next day, only to have the flight cancelled. We spent the night at Ft. Bragg since there was another flight the next day. We got a shuttle to the airport in the afternoon and hung out with the other people hoping to fly. That little group of people quickly formed a bond while waiting. One man offered to pick up dinner for us when he went to get his own dinner. I cried tears of relief when my name was on the list. That man and his wife made the list too. We hugged. Then they called him back to the counter. They had a last minute change and could not fit them on the flight. I cried again.

Would I do this all again? Honestly, I don't know. The price was right and  I learned a lot of tricks to flying Space A that would make a second attempt much easier. It was definitely an adventure I will not soon forget.

1 comment:

  1. We've only done it once - my husband was deployed to Qatar for a year and they "allowed" us to come over and visit him for a month one summer. We actually got on the first flight, but it took FOREVER to fly there. 22 hours with 4 stops. The only saving grace was that at every stop they let us off the plane so the kids could run around a little. When we could get back one, we would get more food and another movie, so they did okay. And I was pregnant on the return trip home. Glad it went well - I've heard to and from Europe are the hardest flights to get on, so glad you made it!