I’m almost certain that we found the best travel day of the year: the Saturday after school starts. It was a good thing, because we knew that our trip would be a challenge for us even in the best of circumstances. We were right–the day was stressful, but we made it through with no major scars.
With a flight departure in the early afternoon, we woke up at a normal hour and still had plenty of time for breakfast and final preparations. We tried to give Jewel some Benadryl to calm her down, but she rejected the notion, as if she wanted to prove to us that she could travel without any pharmacological help. She was our travel all-star for the day.
When the time came, we managed to fit all of our luggage into the compact rental car. It was a tight fit–I worried that something would fall on top of Jewel if I accelerated too quickly, and the stroller was poking into Jenny’s seat. Elena gave big hugs to John, Karina, and the cousins. Jenny teared up as we drove down the street. This was really the end; a farewell to part of our family, and the end of the Austin chapter in the book of our life.
Because we had Jewel, we couldn’t check in online, but as soon as we walked into the airport, an attendant came out to help us to the desk. A trainee employee checked us in, but he had plenty of help from an experienced desk agent and everything went smoothly. Everyone complimented our cute Elena. As a gray cat turned nearly invisible in a black travel bag, Jewel surprised people whenever she would meow.
The security line was virtually empty, so we were able to occupy an entire x-ray machine without inconveniencing other passengers. Jewel went through in Jenny’s arms with no complaints or escape attempts. Elena didn’t understand why her shoes and stroller had to go through the machine, but gave up her complaints once we went through and got them back.
Because things had been so easy to that point, we had a long wait at the gate. While Jenny and Elena explored the airport, I got online using my Clear iSpot. Later, Jenny left Elena with me while she went to buy a book, and we waved at people in the terminal and looked out the windows at the planes. The time passed quickly enough, and soon we were ready to board.
This was the first time that Elena flew in her own seat, and it made a huge difference in our comfort. Also, Delta still has preboarding for families, so we were the first ones on the plane. We sat down and ate lunch before the plane was fully loaded, and still had time to sing Elena to sleep before takeoff. She didn’t sleep for very long, but was calm through the rest of the flight.
We deboarded for a layover, but the same plane (with a different flight number) was set to take us on the second leg of the trip, so we didn’t have to go to a new gate. We wanted to stretch our legs, so we decided to walk the terminal in search of some sort of treat–we settled on frozen yogurt. When I headed to the restroom, Jenny abruptly discovered Elena’s new ability to climb out of her stroller; she started to run after me before Jenny even knew what was happening. Elena spent the rest of the time in the airport climbing into and out of her stroller.
Our second flight had a rough start. Elena didn’t want to part with the stroller, and loudly voiced her displeasure until well after she was in her seat. She started kicking the seat in front of her, earning disapproving looks from its occupant; when I prevented her from doing that she just cried louder, so I had to pick my poison and decide who we wanted to offend–just him, or him and everyone else nearby. I had less sympathy for that guy when he appeared to recline his seat later in the flight.
It had already been a long day for Elena; she fussed because she was tired, but didn’t want to fall asleep. I decided to show that I could be more persistent that she was and sang her favorite songs over and over until she finally fell asleep. Jenny probably wished that I would pay more attention to her, especially during some pockets of turbulence, but I had to prioritize.
The turbulence also shortened Elena’s nap; she started to cry, even though her eyes were still closed. We tried to calm her down, but it didn’t work and we decided to wake her up all the way. She wasn’t happy about that, so we went with the nuclear option and queued up Barney for the last part of the flight.
Upon landing, Elena decided that she wanted to push the stroller instead of sitting in it, which slowed us down considerably. It didn’t make a difference, because even though we were the last people to the baggage claim, we still had to wait for the baggage claim to start. And that didn’t make a difference either, because after we had collected our bags we still had a long wait before my mother came to pick us up. By the time she came, it was late and we were all tired. Even our champion traveler Jewel, who hadn’t made a peep since the first takeoff, seemed a little flustered to be waiting in the loud, busy pick-up area.
We’re staying with my parents until we can move into our own place–more news on that front soon. It was nice to have a familiar, comfortable place to go home to. But still strange, especially since I hadn’t really lived there since leaving for college, and didn’t think that I ever would again, even for a little while. That’s enough for now, because much like our travel day, this post has gone on long enough.